There is a lot of information to be found on DHEA, some true, some false. I'm sure you've heard of it referred to as a fountain of youth in pill form, or perhaps you have heard that it can cause prostrate or breast cancer. The simple truth is that DHEA is an important hormone in a hormone replacement therapy program. Over time, our DHEA blood level decreases. As we age, lower levels of DHEA can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease for men, and lower immune system function, IGF-1 levels and decrease insulin sensitivity.
In studies, researchers restored DHEAS levels in older adults to levels of a 25 year old; those tests showed impressive results. Yen and Morales administered 50 mg of DHEA to 13 men and 17 women between the ages of 40 to 70 years old. Over a period of 6 months, both sexes experienced an increase in lean muscle mass and the men enjoyed a decrease in fat mass. In addition, they had a large improvement in how well they felt overall.
The same researchers conducted a study to assess the effect of DHEA on immune function. As a result, they discovered that DHEA levels are correlated with natural killer cell function levels. Natural killer cells are the white blood cells responsible for killing viruses and tumor cells before they grow into cancers. Many others have done similar studies on different diseases such as lupus, diabetes, heart disease and obesity; in all cases, restoring levels of DHEAS back to those of a younger adult resulted in reduced risk of the disease.
Because DHEA is so safe and relatively free of side effects, the FDA allows it to be sold over the counter. There is no evidence that using DHEA increases the risk of prostate or breast cancer; however, it can cause accelerated growth of an existing tumor if one exists because the body turns the hormone into estradiol and testosterone.
Because of this increased risk, we screen our patients for both breast cancer and prostate cancer prior to starting any treatment plan. The only possible side effects with our DHEA treatment plan are an increase in acne and increased hair growth in women. Both of these side effects, are easily resolved by reducing the dosage of DHEA.