Testosterone: A "male hormone" -- a sex hormone produced by the testes that encourages the development of male sexual characteristics, stimulates the activity of the male secondary sex characteristics, and prevents changes in them following castration. Chemically, testosterone is 17-beta-hydroxy-4-androstene-3-one.
Testosterone is the most potent of the naturally occurring androgens. The androgens cause the development of male sex characteristics, such as a deep voice and a beard; they also strengthen muscle tone and bone mass.
High levels of testosterone appear to promote good health in men, for example, lowering the risks of high blood pressure and heart attack. High testosterone levels also correlate with risky behavior, however, including increased aggressiveness and smoking, which may cancel out these health benefits.
Testosterone may be given to treat medical conditions, including female (but not male) breast cancer, hypogonadism (low gonadal function) in the male, cryptorchism (nondescent of the testis into the scrotum), and menorrhagia (irregular periods).
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Last Editorial Review: 5/13/2016