Health Risks Different for Men and Women with Genetically High Testosterone

Health Risks Different for Men and Women with Genetically High Testosterone

Genetically high levels of testosterone pose different health risks for men and women, especially for diabetes, according to a February 2020 study in the journal Nature Medicine.

Having these high testosterone levels increases a woman’s risk for type 2 diabetes by 37%, the scientists reported. But in men, high testosterone lowers diabetes risk by 14%.

Both men’s and women’s bodies produce testosterone. However, this sex hormone is usually associated with men because their bodies make more of it. Testosterone is responsible for many masculine characteristics, like facial hair, a deep voice, and muscle mass. It’s also important for sexual function.

The researchers analyzed genetic data from over 425,000 people in the United Kingdom. They identified over 2,500 genetic variations related to testosterone.

“We’ve shown that testosterone levels in men and women are heritable [transmissible from parent to child] and influenced by the combined effect of many genetic variants and genes,” study co-author Anna Murray, PhD of the University of Exeter told

“Notably, testosterone levels are regulated completely differently in each of the sexes,” she added.

Genetically high testosterone levels were associated with other health risks, too.

Women with high testosterone had an increased risk of 51% for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), the researchers said. PCOS affects a woman’s ovulation and menstrual cycles. It’s a common cause of female infertility.

High testosterone levels were also associated with greater risk for breast cancer and endometrial cancer.

In men, genetically high testosterone levels were linked to increased prostate cancer risk.

The findings may help healthcare providers better understand how genetics, testosterone, and certain diseases are linked. However, more research is necessary.

“We don’t recommend that anyone take medications to alter testosterone levels on the basis of our findings,” Dr. Murray told


Diabetes Times

“Female high testosterone levels linked to type 2 diabetes risk”

(February 12, 2020)

Doheny, Kathleen with Anna Murray, PhD, and Mark E. Molitch, MD

“High Levels of Testosterone Affect Women and Men Differently”

(February 24, 2020)

International Society for Sexual Medicine

“What is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)?”

Nature Medicine

Ruth, Katherine S., et al.

“Using human genetics to understand the disease impacts of testosterone in men and women”

(Abstract. Published: February 10, 2020)


“Testosterone study finds differing disease links in men and women”

(February 10, 2020)

University of Exeter

“Testosterone levels affect risk of metabolic disease and cancers”

(February 10, 2020)