Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone and an anabolic steroid. In male humans, testosterone plays a key role in the development of male reproductive tissues such as testes and prostate, as well as promoting secondary sexual characteristics such as increased muscle and bone mass, and the growth of body hair. In addition, testosterone is involved in health and well-being, and the prevention of osteoporosis. Insufficient levels of testosterone in men may lead to abnormalities including frailty and bone loss.
Testosterone is a steroid from the androstane class containing a keto and hydroxyl groups at positions three and seventeen respectively. It is biosynthesized in several steps from cholesterol and is converted in the liver to inactive metabolites. It exerts its action through binding to and activation of the androgen receptor. In humans and most other vertebrates, testosterone is secreted primarily by the testicles of males and, to a lesser extent, the ovaries of females. On average, in adult males, levels of testosterone are about 7 to 8 times as great as in adult females. As the metabolism of testosterone in males is more pronounced, the daily production is about 20 times greater in men. Females are also more sensitive to the hormone.
In addition to its role as a natural hormone, testosterone is used as a medication in the treatment of low testosterone levels in men, transgender hormone therapy for transgender men, and breast cancer in women. Since testosterone levels decrease as men age, testosterone is sometimes used in older men to counteract this deficiency. It is also used illicitly to enhance physique and performance, for instance in athletes.