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Alpha Male Nation | January 17, 2018

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Can Muscle-Building Supplements Give You Testicular Cancer? - Alpha Male Nation

Can Muscle-Building Supplements Give You Testicular Cancer?

How much do we generally know about supplements? These are of a diverse range, from brain boosting supplements (which can offer us the chance to improve our cognitive memory, enhance focus, restore short term or long term memory, have the capacity to adopt a decision faster, as well as extend our resistance throughout the day) to weight loss supplements (which can enable us to slim down more easily, curb our appetite and prevent lost kilos to return back) and all the way to muscle building supplements.

When it comes to muscle building supplements, it is essential to note the fact that some can have the ‘power’ to enhance energy and concentration, boost testosterone levels to a normal and ideal rate, as well as provide a quick recovery after every workout. Furthermore, it is essential to keep in mind that many people claim that, in addition to supporting leaner muscle mass, muscle building supplements can increase in confidence and inner strength, as well as promote a general feeling of happiness and fulfillment, which, as some experts say, are guaranteed to deliver fast and solely positive results in a shorter period of time (as opposed to exercising without taking any pills). However, in this information age, people are more likely to get mixed reviews and opinions, as well as get more confused, rather than well informed about a number of subjects and domains, be it technology, medicine, health, education, entertainment, heart conditions, diseases, fashion and so on and so forth.

When it comes to supplements (of every sort, including brain supplements, weight loss supplements, muscle building supplements and so on) any people nowadays are choosing to use short cuts like popping pill after pill and drinking shakes and powders to reach a certain desired body image in the shortest amount of time possible. However, the new studies claim that men who take muscle-building supplements regularly are prone to significantly higher risks of developing testicular cancer than men who did not take those kind of supplements. The testicular cancer risk was found to be especially high among men who started using these supplements before the age of twenty five, had multiple supplements regimens and used them for years in order to reach the ideal body they dreamed of.

Bodybuilding supplements are commonly used to replace meals, enhance weight gain, particularly muscle mass, promote weight loss or even to improve athletic performance for those looking for a radical change of their lifestyle. Among the most widely used by most athletes as well as amateur bodybuilders are vitamin supplements, proteinbranched-chain amino acids (BCAA), glutamineessential fatty acids, meal replacement products,  and a particular type with creatine, weight loss products and last but not least testosterone boosters.

The popularity of creatine can be explained by the fact that it is a naturally occurring substance within our muscle cells, primarily around the skeletal muscle tissue where almost 95 percent of the body’s creatine supply can be found. The remainder is stored throughout the rest of the body. This naturally occurring metabolite has been reproduced as creatine monohydrate for dietary supplement purposes and is used by a majority of body builders. The advantages of creatine supplementation include: the promotion of lean body mass, increased muscle cell volume, faster post-workout recovery, increased glycogen storage as well as a significant increase in high-intensity muscle performance. Athletes show a preference for creatine when weight training and bodybuilding due to the rapid pace at which muscle mass is built. Moreover, for many, it’s easy to stop taking creatine because it is also a substance naturally produced by the body. When an athlete stops taking this type of supplement, the creatine levels in the body will most likely return to normal within a period of three to four weeks.


As evidence of just how popular these types of muscle building supplements are it is reported that annual sales of sport nutrition products in the US is over $2.7 billion (US) according to data from Consumer Reports. It is only logical that this may alter the perception of just how efficient muscle- building supplements are. And of course, the high demand on the market had an impact at the legislative level. In the USA, in October 1994, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) was signed into law. Under DSHEA, only the supplement manufacturer is responsible for determining that the dietary supplements, manufactures or distributes are safe for the consumer. Therefore, dietary supplements do not need approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before they are placed on the market. With exception, in the case of a new dietary ingredient, a firm did not have to provide FDA with the evidence to substantiate safety or effectiveness of said supplement. It is widely believed that the 1994 DSHEA further consolidated the position of the supplement industry and lead to the incredible growth of the phenomenon and thus, sales figures for these types of supplements.

If you are curious to know more details regarding testicular cancer, it is essential to keep in mind that this is a form of cancer which is developed in the testicles (part of the male reproductive system). It is one of the highest rates of cancer types (with an average five-year survival rate of 95%). It is important to keep in mind that, should the cancer cells have failed to spread into lymph nodes and other vital organs from the testicles, then the 5 year survival is 99% (while if it has grown into neighboring structures or has spread to lumph nodes, then the survival rate is, naturally, lower. Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind that globally testicular cancer resulted in almost 9000 deaths in 2013 (being up from 7000 deaths in 1990). Moreover, in the United States of America, per year, almost 8,000 cases of testicular cancers are diagnosed. In Europe, more precisely in the United Kingdom, a staggering amount of 2,000 men are diagnosed each year and, also, over a man’s lifetime, his risk of developing testicular cancer is 1 in 200 (0,5%). When it comes to the most common cancer developing period, as shown by recent studies, this ranges from 20 to 39 years (in males), the period being most common to start, being also rarely seen before the age of 15 years.

For instance, it is worth noting that between 1975 and 2011 the rates of testicular cancer rose from 3.7 to 5.9 cases for every 100,000 men. As a coincidence or not, it was also around this time that bodybuilding started to gain popularity. This was on the background of growth in the bodybuilding supplement industry, which sold pills and powders meant to stimulate muscle growth for everyone. Many people became curious as to how beneficial or affordable these supplements are or how can they improve their life. Mass-media had a new targeted focus, as many news covers and reports had the subject of brain boosters, muscle building supplements or weight loss supplements. The Internet, of course, is the second home (and largest, to be more precise) to information regarding muscle building supplements.

Furthermore, it is crucial to note that in this period of time, both creatine and androstenedione have been used by athletes to boost their performance and increase their strength. But while the science reasoning generally supports creatine’s benefits, it doesn’t do the same for androstenedione, which increases testosterone production, and can cause a wide range of side effects from kidney damage and acne to mood swings and depression. Even so,for the most part, supplements containing these chemicals as well as others have gone mainly unregulated, as the Food and Drug Administration relies on the manufacturers to ensure safety of the products.  Recently, the FDA raised a new set of concerns about nuscle-building supplements. FDA issued a warning about the use of the MBS called Tri-Methyl Xtreme, which contains potentially harmful synthetic anabolic steroids that can lead to serious liver injury.

The statistics show that testicular cancer rates have increased over the past four decades — rising to 5.9 cases per 100,000 men in 2011, from 3.7 cases in 100,000 in 1975 — for reasons researchers don’t fully understand so this raised a whole new se of questions on the subject of potential factors, internal as well as external, that may cause and increase the risks. It is essential to note that this form of cancer is a very mysterious one, as mentioned by specialists and researchers in the field of cancer. The increase cannot be explained by any factor, as, should one have used the testicles for a longer period than another, then, logically, the risk of developing testicular cancer would have been higher. Highly acclaimed senior study author Tongzhang Zheng, who has focused his time and efforts into researching the field of testicular cancer, has come up with this thought. He even conducted a study with regards to this issue. To reach the conclusion, Zheng’s team conducted detailed interviews with almost 900 men, 356 of whom had been previously diagnosed with testicular germ cell cancer.

The questionnaire asked of the study consisted of four main target points: if MBS were used, if yes, at what age were they first used (under or above 25 years of age, since the participants were 13 to 50 years old.),number of different supplements used (one supplement, or more than one) and duration of usage (less than 12 months, greater than 36 months, or between the two).The researchers asked the men not only about their supplement use and particular regimen fallowed, but also about a wide variety of other possible factors such as smoking, drinking, exercise habits, family history of testicular cancer and prior injury to their testes or groin area. After gathering their data, the researchers reached the conclusion that the men who used supplements had a 65 percent greater risk of having developed testicular cancer compared to those men who did not use supplements in their daily diets. The odds ratios increased to a 177 percent greater risk among younger men who used more than one kind of supplement and who used supplements for more than three years. It has been shown that the supplement use was related to an increase in developing testicular cancer. Of course, these findings are very important, as there are a few factors (with modifiable risks) for such form of cancer and the idea that testicular cancer is a mysterious type of cancer still stands, according to Russ Hauser, professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a main collaborator of the research. He also claimed that the relationship under assessment is strong.

testicular-cancerHowever, the findings of many of these studies must be approached and interpreted carefully ad with a certain degree of skepticism. There are several factors to consider when looking at the results of the study and the way it was conducted, also. It cannot be dismissed the fact that androstenedione is not a legal dietary supplement, it is an illegal drug and therefore a majority of those looking to increase their muscle mass with supplements haven’t and will not resort to them. The purpose of the majority of the studies conducted in this area are concerned with finding an association, but not a causal relationship, between the ingredients identified and increased cancer risk in some cases, and while that is certainly the case with androstenedione or other illegal steroid use by study participants, there is no hard scientific evidence to support the idea that protein or creatine are a risk for testicular cancer, therefore these products should not have been put in the same risk category.

We should also take into account the habits of body builders as it is possible that they may be either knowingly or unknowingly been taking other products, such as illegal steroids, that could be dangerous. This is the main reason why so many body building enthusiasts are urged to take supplements in this category only after carefully researching the companies that they are buying the products from and to be well aware that if they are using products labeled supplements that create extreme muscle-building results in a very short period of time, they may be using a product that is illegally spiked with an illegal, unknown, non-supplement ingredient with a great deal of potential for serious adverse effects. As any person who goes to the gym knows, if the claims or results are too good to be true, they probably came with a warning label and consequences in the long run.

Overall, as many of the studies in the field show us men who used muscle-building supplements increased their risk of developing testicular cancer by 65 percent. Men who used more than one type of muscle building supplement had a 177 percent increase in risk. Men who used the supplements for three years or more had a 156 percent increase in risk. And men who started using supplements at the age of 25 or younger had a 121 percent increase in risk. This seems to be the bottom line in this particular area.

The study that seems to have reignited this debate is the first analytical epidemiological study of the possible direct link between certain components in the muscle building supplements and testicular cancer, as the authors wrote in the journal. Their work was mainly inspired by large amounts of evidence gathering that at least some supplement ingredients may lead to irreparable damage to the testes. However, future large epidemiologic studies and lab experiments would be necessary to establish a definite link between supplements and testicular cancer as the whole situation can be influenced by a wide range of external factors that may or may not play an important role in the final results of the studies performed. The results of this particular study that started a wide debate in the muscle-building community were detailed in the British Journal of Cancer.

“Is there a definite link between the muscle- building supplements everyone enlisted at the gym seems to use and testicular cancer” is the question on the mind of everyone since the amount of studies done on this subject skyrocketed in the past few years. However, since we cannot trust all these studies to not be biased and take into account every other aspect of particular cases, a series of studies must be performed in the future in order to get to the bottom of the subject. What would be very helpful for those really interested in the subject would be a thorough analyze of each particular component in the products used to gain muscle mass that would factor in the degree in which each of these can influence the development of cancerous cells in regular users. On the other hand, since the researchers did not disclose all of the supplements they investigated during their research, it is virtually impossible to know how many of the supplements contained androgens, how many of them have been revealed to be safe, and how many were just plain old protein powder with no blatant disregard for the health of the consumer.

The main issue with this study is how broad the category of ‘Muscle Building Supplements’ (MBS) is. The authors of the studies that claim to have found a potential link between use of muscle-building supplements and testicular cancer state that in the participant interview was included an assessment of as much as 30 different types of MBS powders or pills but only disclosed creatine, protein and androstenedione as substances that may have modified the final results of the study one way or another. More specifically, the article stated that the interview included an assessment of 30 different types of MBS pills or powders, which had proteins, creatine, as well as other ingredients.

Studies like these, however, do not prove a causal relationship between two variables. More often then not, they reveal a potential connection, which further through research must investigate in order to determine what causes this potential relationship, or if there is any relationship at all between the two. As such, this study should not be used as evidence to prove anything definitely. Instead, it must act as a stepping stone to more in depth research about the advantages and disadvantages, benefits and set-backs of this type of supplements.

The researchers also specified that the ingredients were abstracted, or taken at the word of the description of the label. If the label claimed there was androstenedione in the supplement, the authors assumed it was true and the results were interpreted according to this belief. There was no mention in the studies of analyzing the supplements to confirm this claim. Confounding ingredients or ‘hidden’ ingredients (those not disclosed on the label) do not seem to be accounted for or included in the final interpretation of the results. This matter is particularly relevant in the context of the recent revelations of poor supplement quality in the industry of supplements.

This kind of ambiguity makes it difficult to connect the results of this study with anything more specific than the category of muscle building supplements as a whole. Moreover, it’s nearly impossible to dissect what this category actually refers to. The only three components disclosed are also very different in terms of their actions in the body. Since the muscle-building supplements category is too abstract and broad to dissect, no specific advice can be given based off of the results of this study.

Ultimately, the studies conducted in the hopes of finding a direct connection between testicular cancer and the use of muscle-building supplements does not offer enough evidence for current users to change their dietary habits at all. No study yet can provide a straightforward answer to the question” will this supplement I’m using give me testicular cancer?” However, like in the case of every other product, it is always a good idea to look up each ingredient in a dietary supplement .All in all, at this moment in time, there is no legitimate reason to fear ‘muscle building supplements’ as a group.