Anabolic steroids, also known as anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS), are basically man-made or synthetic variations of the male sex hormone, testosterone. Even though they have legitimate medical uses such as in the treatment of anemia, steroids are often used illegally by bodybuilders and athletes to build muscles.
It is also important to note that the use of steroids without a doctor’s prescription and recommendation is illegal and no doctor would ever prescribe them to a young and healthy individual purely for the sake of increasing muscle mass.
According to a new study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, the use of anabolic steroids for non-medical reasons can cause many side effects like acne and gynecomastia along with increased hospital admissions and overall, a higher risk of premature death.
Method of the study
The retrospective matched cohort study was led by Dr. Horwitz from the Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Bispebjerg and Frederiksberg Hospital, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark. In this study, Horwitz and his team tested athletes in the Danish fitness centers between 3 January 2006 and 1 March 2018. Those who tested positive were then compared to the control group. A replication cohort was performed to ensure accurate results using the sanctioned subjects from the fitness centers who had initially refused to provide a test sample.
Results of the study
The cohort study found that 545 subjects tested positive the first time around and were compared to 5450 control subjects. In the replication cohort, 644 subjects who refused a doping test initially were included along with 6440 control subjects.
On an average follow-up after 7.4 years, Horwitz and his team found that the mortality rate was almost three times as much among the users of anabolic steroids than the non-users with a hazard ratio of 3%. Furthermore, the cohort group had more hospital admission with a median annual number of hospital contacts of 0.81 compared to the control group’s 0.36.
Also, anabolic steroid users had more risk of developing acne, gynecomastia, and erectile dysfunction. The cohort group showed an increased prevalence of these conditions when compared to the control.
All of the results were replicated in a second cohort, assuring that an actual causal-effect relation was present rather than a mere coincidence.
The authors of the study claim that high rates of anabolic steroid abuse are of grave concern in the field of public health, especially after finding the above-mentioned long-term consequences of AAS use.
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