Disruption and recovery of testicular function during and after androgen abuse: the HAARLEM study

Disruption and recovery of testicular function during and after androgen abuse : the HAARLEM study / D.L. Smit, M.M. Buijs, O. de Hon, M. den Heijer, W. de Ronde. - (Human Reproduction (2021) deaa366; p. 1-11)

  • PMID: 33550376
  • DOI: 10.1093/humrep/deaa366


Abstract

Study question: What is the speed and extent by which endogenous testosterone production and spermatogenesis recover after androgen abuse?

Summary answer: Testosterone concentrations normalized within 3 months after discontinuation of androgen abuse in most subjects but recovery of spermatogenesis took longer-approximately 1 year.

What is known already: An estimated 4-6% of amateur strength athletes use androgens. Abuse of supraphysiological doses of androgens completely suppresses endogenous testosterone production and spermatogenesis.

Study design, size, duration: Prospective and observational cohort study in which 100 male amateur athletes participated for 1 year.

Participants/materials, setting, methods: Subjects (≥18 years) were included if they had not used androgens for at least 3 months and intended to start an androgen cycle within 2 weeks. Clinic visits took place before (T0), at the end (T1), and 3 months after the end of the cycle (T2), and 1 year after start of the cycle (T3), and included a blood test for gonadotrophins and sex hormones, and semen analysis.

Main results and the role of chance: During androgen abuse, 77% of subjects had a total sperm count (TSC) below 40 million. Three months after the end of the cycle (T2), total (-1.9 nmol/l, CI -12.2 to 8.33, P = 0.71) and free (-38.6 pmol/l, CI -476 to 399, P = 0.86) testosterone concentrations were not different compared to baseline, whereas mean TSC was 61.7 million (CI 33.7 to 90.0; P < 0.01) lower than baseline. At the end of follow-up (T3), there was no statistically significant difference for total (-0.82 nmol/l, CI -11.5 to 9.86, P = 0.88) and free (-25.8 pmol/l, CI -480 to 428, P = 0.91) testosterone compared to baseline, but there was for TSC (-29.7 million, CI -59.1 to -0.39, P = 0.05). In nine (11%) subjects, however, testosterone concentrations were below normal at the end of follow-up (T3), and 25 (34%) subjects still had a TSC below 40 million.

Limitations, reasons for caution: The follow-up period (after the cycle) was relatively short, especially considering the long recovery time of spermatogenesis after discontinuation of androgens.

Wider implications of the findings: Endogenous testosterone production and spermatogenesis recover following androgen abuse in the vast majority of users. Nevertheless, not all users achieve a normalized testicular function. This may especially be the case for athletes with a high past exposure to androgens.

Study funding/competing interest(s): There is no conflict of interest. The study was funded by the Spaarne Gasthuis academy.

Trial registration number: N/A.

Keywords: anabolic steroids; androgens; bodybuilding; post-cycle therapy; semen analysis; testosterone.

Parameters

Science
Research / Study
Date
7 March 2021
People
Buijs, Madelon M.
Heijer, Martin den
Hon, Olivier de
Ronde, Willem (Pim) de
Smit, Diederik L.
Country
Netherlands
Language
English
Other organisations
Amsterdam Universitair Medische Centra (Amsterdam UMC) - Amsterdam University Medical Center
Dopingautoriteit - Doping Authority Netherlands
Spaarne Gasthuis - Spaarne Hospital
Doping classes
S1. Anabolic Agents
Substances
Testosterone
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Health effects
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Scientific article
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Date generated
10 March 2021
Date of last modification
11 March 2021
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