What is chemical castration?

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What is chemical castration?
Physicians may prescribe chemical castration for the treatment of prostate cancer. (corridor image by les sanders from Fotolia.com)

Chemical castration is an alternative to surgical castration. Through a less invasive means, chemical castration achieves the same end as surgical castration: reducing the production of the male sex hormone testosterone.

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Surgical Castration

Surgical castration involves removal of a patient's testes, the primary source of the male hormone testosterone.

Chemical Castration

In chemical castration, production of testosterone is suppressed by the injection of synthetic luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone agonists. According to the Mayo Clinic, these drugs interfere with messages going to the testicles.

Side Effects

According to the University of Nebraska Medical Center, side effects of chemical castration include erectile dysfunction, hot flushes, fatigue and nausea.

Prostate Cancer Patients

Chemical castration is sometimes used to treat prostate cancer. By suppressing production of testosterone, physicians can suppress the growth of tumours. This treatment often lasts several years.

Sex Offenders

Chemical castration may also be helpful in the treatment of paedophiles and other sex offenders, under the theory that reduced testosterone levels lead to a reduced sex drive and decrease the likelihood of committing crimes.

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