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36 years
Hello.. do steroids have side effects such as cancer ?
Aug 4, 2014

Dr. Zakia Dimassi Pediatrics
Before answering your question, one clarification is in order: you need to know that there are 2 types of endogenous (naturally synthesized and secreted in the body) steroids:
A- Corticosteroids: produced by the adrenal gland, a small gland situated above the kidney. These hormones include aldosterone, which is responsible for the regulation of sodium concentration in the body, and cortisol (the stress hormone), which plays a myriad of roles in the body, including serving as part of the body's stress response system to decrease inflammation. Corticosteroids can be also exogenous (synthetic) and found in prescribed medications, like prednisone, prednisolone, and dexamethasone taken orally, intravenously, topically (in creams, such a betamethasone) or by intramuscular injection; their main uses are for the treatment of allergic diseases like asthma and eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and systemic lupus erythematosus to target inflammation and to supress (decrease function of) the immune system which is overactive and is part of the disease process.
B- Anabolic steroids: or androgenic steroids, these are hormones manufactured in the body to regulate the production of testosterone in the testicles and ovaries. Testosterone has an androgenic function through which it is involved in developing the male sex characteristics, while the anabolic part is responsible for increasing the amount of body tissue by increasing protein production. The pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain, helps maintain testosterone production and hormone secretion under check, by secreting growth hormone and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). Anabolic and androgenic steroids are also available as prescription medications reserved for conditions in which the body does not make enough hormone and supplementation may be required. As an example, growth hormone and testosterone. These medications are only legally prescribed by health-care providers; unfortunately, they are commonly used illegally and abused to enhance athletic performance and increase muscle mass (in parallel with increase in caloric intake). The injudicious use of anabolic steroids does not go without serious side effects, which are due to abnormally high levels of testosterone; side effects include high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, liver damage, heart failure, acne, baldness, impotence/infertility, as well as aggressive and violent behavior.
Why do these side effects occur?
These exogenous (from outside the body) steroids suppress the endogenous ( naturally occurring) testosterone in the body and, in males, resulting in decrease in testicle size (atrophy), decreased sperm production, infertility, and baldness. To make things even more complicated, the excess steroid can be converted to estrogen (the major female hormone), so the user ends up with enlarged breasts (known as gynecomastia). In females, the excess testosterone production may lead to a deeper voice (virilization), changes in the menstrual cycle, and increased hair (hirsutism) Baldness may also be seen in women.
Other organs also have their share of the damage:
-Acne due to increased number of sebaceous glands in the skin
-Liver cancer risk because of liver damage
-Heart failure: just like any other muscle, the heart muscle may enlarge (hypertrophy) in response to steroids, which can lead to decreased pumping ability (cardiomyopathy) as well as changes in the electrical conduction system in the heart causing rhythm changes (arrhythmias), palpitations, and potentially sudden cardiac death.
-High blood pressure, increased cholesterol levels, and elevated blood sugars, all of which are risk factors for heart attack and stroke.
-Psychiatric effects: including excitation/aggression/manic episodes known as "roid rage," and violence, versus depression.