What is behind the research finding correlation between muscle building supplements and testicular cancer?

17 Jul

Information about a study and several unclear reports have started the rumor mill about the dangers of dietary supplement use and are inferring that the intake of supplements increases the risk of developing testicular cancer. So, the question is – how much of this is true, and can these sources and study results be trusted?

The study which was performed several years ago included more than 350 men from 18 to 55 years of age, who were diagnosed with testicular cancer in the period 2006-2010.

The research team surveyed the men, and especially their diet and the use of dietary supplements (creatine, protein powders, androstenidone), which in this study were referred to as “muscle building supplements”. The subjects were asked how long and often they have been using one of 30 supplements. Based on the answers, the research team concluded that there is a correlation between “muscle building supplements” and a higher risk of developing testicular cancer. The main problem which sceptics have with this study is that the illegal anabolic prohormone androstenedione was included in the list of supplements which the men were asked about.

The conclusion of the research team was that men who use more than one type of supplement and start using them before the age of 25 or for more than 3 years are at higher risk of developing testicular cancer.

But what does this actually mean?

Spurious correlations

While media and many people rushed to make the generalized conclusion that muscle building products and supplements cause testicular cancer, the truth is that the way this study was performed doesn’t allow for a definite conclusion to be drawn. The conclusion cannot be definitive, because of the way the study was done. The research team could have replaced the questions about supplements with absolutely any food or drink, for example, and could have found strong associations between the foods and drinks preferred by the men with testicular cancer too. So, no actual association and cause and effect relation between the supplement intake and the cancer was actually found.

Plus, the men in the study were asked to remember which types of supplements they took years ago, which is quite unreliable given that people rarely can remember what pills, foods and supplements they have consumed so far back in time.

The study team didn’t actually ask the subjects what kind of supplements they were using. There are so many different supplements offered for body building and all of them have a wide variety of components. Some of them are spiked with certain questionable or illegal anabolic steroids and other ingredients, which the research team didn’t take into consideration.

And last but not least, the problem with the inclusion of Androstendione in the list of muscle building supplement, when it is not a supplement but rather an anabolic drug, which is illegal. Comparing this prohormone anabolic product to muscle building supplements such as protein and creatine powders is absolutely unacceptable.

Take the MuscleMax Xtreme muscle building supplement for example – it is perfectly natural, it works great and it is safe!

Overall, this study is very poorly constructed and performed, and the findings cannot really be considered serious scientific findings, given all the faults of the study.

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