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Osteoporos Int. 2005 Dec;16(12):1487-94. Epub 2005 Apr 23.

Effect of aromatase inhibition on bone metabolism in elderly hypogonadal men.

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Endocrine Unit, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Bulfinch 327, Fruit Street, Boston, MA 02114, USA.


Both estrogens and androgens play important roles in skeletal development and maintenance in men. The relative importance of estrogens and androgens in male bone metabolism, however, remains undefined. Anastrozole is an oral aromatase inhibitor that decreases estrogen production and increases androgen production in men. Currently, anastrozole is being investigated as a potential agent for the treatment of hypogonadism in aging men. Because anastrozole lowers estrogen levels and raises androgen levels, its effect on bone metabolism is difficult to predict. To assess the effects of anastrozole on bone turnover, we randomized 37 elderly (ages 62-74) mildly hypogonadal men (serum testosterone <350 ng/dl) to receive either anastrozole 1 mg daily (n=12), anastrozole 1 mg twice weekly (n=11), or daily placebo (n=14) for 12 weeks. Serum gonadal steroid levels, serum and urine biochemical markers of bone turnover, serum osteoprotegerin, and total body bone mineral density were measured at baseline and week 12. Mean serum levels of total and bioavailable testosterone increased substantially in both treated groups. Specifically, mean +/- SD bioavailable testosterone levels increased from 99+/-31 ng/dl to 207+/-65 ng/dl in the group receiving 1 mg of anastrozole daily and from 115+/-37 ng/dl to 178+/-55 ng/dl in the subjects receiving 1 mg of anastrozole twice weekly ( p <0.001 vs placebo for both groups). Serum estradiol levels decreased modestly in both treated groups (from 26+/-8 pg/ml to 17+/-6 pg/ml in the daily treatment group and from 27+/-8 pg/ml to 17+/-5 pg/ml in the twice-weekly treatment group, p <0.001 vs placebo for both groups). Despite these hormonal changes, no increases in biochemical markers of bone resorption were observed. Specifically, mean serum N-telopeptide and urinary deoxypyridinoline concentrations remained stable in both treated groups over the 12-week treatment period. Similarly, serum biochemical markers of bone formation (osteocalcin and amino-terminal propeptide of type 1 collagen), serum osteoprotegerin, and total body bone mineral density did not change. These data demonstrate that although short-term administration of anastrozole decreases serum estradiol levels in elderly men with mild hypogonadism, this intervention does not adversely affect bone metabolism over a 12-week period. This lack of an effect may be due to the concomitant increase in testosterone production, the relative modest effect on estradiol production, or a combination of both factors. These results suggest that anastrozole therapy is unlikely to have an adverse effect on bone metabolism when taken over extended periods and may prove to be a valuable method of normalizing testosterone production in older men.

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