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Hot Flashes Can Strike Men, Too

Photo taken by Tom Denham. (tdenham) There are no usage restrictions for this photo

Men too can experience hot flashes like those of menopausal women—if they undergo chemical castration.

New findings have verified a way to detect hot flashes. This could help develop treatments against these uncomfortable events in patients who endure chemical castration for medical reasons.

Chemical castration involves hormonal drugs that suppress testosterone and therefore the male sex drive . The procedure is employed as a punishment for male sex offenders in a handful of states and is also performed on prostate cancer patients to help deplete testosterone and thus slow the disease.

Who knew?

Prostate cancer survivors have recounted experiencing hot flashes, which can lead to sweating, dizziness, nausea, headaches, fatigue and perhaps even erratic heartbeats.

"Most people are unaware that men can have hot flashes," clinical psychologist Laura Hanisch at the University of Pennsylvania said. "Even the patients themselves are often unaware that they are having them."

The best method doctors have for measuring hot flashes in women is called sternal skin conductance, which measures changes in the electrical conductivity of the skin on the sternum or breastbone. Hot flashes lead to sweating, which increases skin conductance. The sternum is the best place to detect hot flashes because it has a good number of sweat glands and is not prone to sweating due just to changes in mood as other parts of the body can be.

Treatments

Although there are obvious anatomical differences between men and women, including with sweat glands , Hanisch and her colleagues confirmed that sternal skin conductance could detect hot flashes in eight prostate cancer survivors, findings the scientists reported in a recent issue of the journal Psychophysiology.

"If we can use sternal skin conductance to monitor the frequency and perception of hot flashes, the data could then be used to develop safe and effective treatments that would be a better alternative than taking hormone treatments or discontinuing cancer-related treatments," Hanisch said.

The fact that hot flashes can go unnoticed by men might be a sign that some can adapt to them, Hanisch added.

"By looking at what exact coping skills they might be using, we might be able to create a treatment to help people who wouldn't necessarily adapt to hot flashes on their own," she told LiveScience.

Charles Q. Choi
Charles Q. Choi is a contributing writer for Live Science and Space.com. He covers all things human origins and astronomy as well as physics, animals and general science topics. Charles has a Master of Arts degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, School of Journalism and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of South Florida. Charles has visited every continent on Earth, drinking rancid yak butter tea in Lhasa, snorkeling with sea lions in the Galapagos and even climbing an iceberg in Antarctica.