Puberty-blocking drugs may pose risk of testicular atrophy, infertility: Mayo Clinic study

Getty Images/nito100
Getty Images/nito100

A recent study by 11 scientists with the Mayo Clinic suggests that boys who take puberty-blocking drugs could be at risk of developing atrophied testicles and long-term infertility issues, despite claims that such drugs are reversible.

The study, published in March and titled "Puberty Blocker and Aging Impact on Testicular Cell States and Function," analyzed testicular tissue samples from 87 patients under age 18.

Sixteen of the boys identified as girls, and nine of them took puberty blockers. 

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Two of the nine on puberty blockers "exhibited abnormalities" in their testicles, states the study hosted on the website of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York which has not yet been peer-reviewed.

Researchers indicated that they offered "unprecedented histological evidence revealing detrimental pediatric testicular sex gland responses to [puberty blockers]."

"At the tissue level, we report mild-to-severe sex gland atrophy in [puberty blocker] treated children," they wrote.

Such abnormalities could negatively affect sperm production, thereby posing a risk to a boy's future fertility and raising "a potential concern regarding the complete 'reversibility' and reproductive fitness of [spermatogonial stem cells]," researchers said.

The researchers noted the scarcity of clinical data regarding children treated with puberty blockers and that the consequences of such drugs for "juvenile testicular development and reproductive fitness" are "poorly understood."

Researchers claimed their study is "significant" given the increase of transgender procedures "despite limited data on the long-term consequences of [puberty blocker] exposure on testicular reproductive health."

The Mayo Clinic says on its website that puberty blockers "don't cause permanent physical changes" but instead merely "pause puberty."

"That offers a chance to explore gender identity," the Mayo Clinic website continues. "It also gives youth and their families time to plan for the psychological, medical, developmental, social and legal issues that may lie ahead."

The study follows this week's release of the "Cass Report" in the United Kingdom. The review was commissioned in response to the exponential increase of youth seeking treatment for gender dysphoria over the past decade and noted the poor quality of studies examining the long-term use of puberty blockers to treat children with gender dysphoria.

The report urged the U.K.'s National Health Services to "review the policy on masculinizing/feminizing hormones" and recommended "extreme caution" when prescribing cross-sex hormones to minors.

"There should be a clear clinical rationale for providing hormones at this stage rather than waiting until an individual reaches 18," the report said.

After the release of the Cass Report, the NHS is advising its "gender clinics to implement a pause" on first appointments for those under 18.

Other European countries, such as Finland, Holland, Norway and Sweden, have also limited or restricted puberty-blocking drugs for minors. The New York Times reports that new guidelines in Denmark being finalized this year will limit hormone treatments to trans-identified adolescents who have experienced dysphoria since early childhood.

Jon Brown is a reporter for The Christian Post. Send news tips to

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