HomeHealth TopicMen's Health

Do Muscle-Building Supplements Increase Testicular Cancer Risk?

Christina Palmer, MDSarah Gupta, MD
Written by Christina Palmer, MD | Reviewed by Sarah Gupta, MD
Updated on January 6, 2023

Key takeaways:

  • Creatine is a common supplement that many people use to try to build muscle.

  • Creatine may help increase lean muscle mass and improve exercise performance.

  • Some muscle-building supplements have been linked to a risk of testicular cancer. But pure creatine is generally considered safe.

White creatine powder is spilling out of a blue supplement jar on a blue background. There is a yellow scoop on top of the powder.
Evgeniy Lee/iStock via Getty Images

Young or old, many people want to build muscles and increase their athletic performance. You’ve likely heard about or even tried creatine supplementation. You may have also heard that muscle-building supplements can have risks, like testicular cancer. 

So is creatine supplementation safe? Does it work? Here’s the short answer: Creatine is generally considered safe and effective. Read on to learn more about the potential benefits and risks and if creatine might be right for you.

What is creatine?

Creatine is a natural chemical in the body. It is made from amino acids (methionine, arginine, and glycine). It is also a common supplement, often in powder form. And it’s popular among athletes or people hoping to build muscle mass or improve exercise performance. 

Most of the creatine in the body is stored in muscles. Creatine is also in the brain, kidneys, and testicles. In the muscles, creatine is mostly stored as phosphocreatine. When you exercise, your body can use phosphocreatine as a quick source of energy.

Creatine is normally consumed in foods like red meat and seafood. If you follow a vegetarian diet, your intake will be lower.

Does creatine have health benefits?

Creatine supplementation may provide some benefits, including increased lean-muscle mass and improved exercise performance

Specifically, creatine supplementation may:

  • Increase muscle size and strength

  • Improve exercise recovery periods

  • Improve exercise performance

  • Increase exercise capacity

There may also be some benefits to creatine supplementation as you get older, since creatine levels naturally decrease with age. Supplementing with creatine may help prevent sarcopenia, or the loss of muscle mass and strength that happens with age. Creatine supplementation has also been studied for potential health benefits in other age-related health conditions, including Parkinson’s disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Side effects of creatine

Creatine supplementation can cause weight gain and water retention. Other side effects tend to be mild and may include nausea, diarrhea, and muscle cramps. You may have heard people say creatine supplementation can lead to hair loss, acne, or erectile dysfunction (ED). But there is not good evidence that it leads to these conditions.

What is the link between creatine and testicular cancer?

There have been some concerns around the use of muscle-building supplements and their effect on the testicles, including the risk of testicular cancer. The risk appears to be higher for those under the age of 25 and those who used 2 or more muscle-building supplements. 

Research shows that supplementing with pure creatine appears to be safe. But here’s the problem: You don’t always know what is in your supplement. There may be contaminants or other ingredients that might not be as safe to use. The FDA doesn't regulate supplements, so it can be hard to know what you’re consuming and what the risks might be.

Is creatine safe?

In general, yes. Studies show that short-term and lower-dose supplementation in adults is likely safe. It’s not a steroid and does not cause baldness, ED, or acne. At recommended doses, creatine is likely safe for the kidneys. It does not appear to increase the risk of cancer. 

Importantly, as with any supplement, there may be unknown risks. So it’s always a good idea to review what you are taking with your healthcare provider.

The bottom line

Creatine is a common supplement people use to build muscle and improve athletic performance. It can be helpful for a wide variety of people, from athletes to people losing muscle with age. Some other muscle-building supplements have been linked to an increase in testicular cancer risk. But pure creatine on its own — at the recommended doses — is likely safe. As with any supplement or medication, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before using creatine.

References

Antonio, J., et al. (2021). Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: What does the scientific evidence really show? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

Bizzarini, E., et al. (2004). Is the use of oral creatine supplementation safe? Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness.

View All References (9)

Candow, D. G., et al. (2014). Creatine supplementation and aging musculoskeletal health. Endocrine.

Dempsey, R. L., et al. (2022). Does oral creatine supplementation improve strength? A meta-analysis. Journal of Family Practice.

Giardi, K. G., et al. (2022). Can muscle building supplements increase testicular cancer risk? Frontiers in Nutrition.

Hall, M., et al. (2021). Creatine supplementation: An update. Current Sports Medicine Reports.

Hauser, R., et al. (2015). Muscle-building supplement use and increased risk of testicular germ cell cancer in men from Connecticut and Massachusetts. British Journal of Cancer.

Kaviani, M., et al. (2020). Benefits to creatine supplementation for vegetarians compared to omnivorous athletes: A systematic review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Kreider, R. B., et al. (2017). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

Smith, R. N., et al. (2014). A review of creatine supplementation in age-related diseases: More than a supplement athletes. F1000 Research.

Solis, M. Y., et al. (2021). Potential of creatine in glucose management and diabetes. Nutrients.

GoodRx Health has strict sourcing policies and relies on primary sources such as medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, thorough, and unbiased by reading our editorial guidelines.

Was this page helpful?

Best Foods For A Healthy Weight!

Sign up for our GoodRx Diet and Nutrition Newsletter to receive the latest healthy eating advice, recipes, and savings that are most relevant to you.

By signing up, I agree to GoodRx's Terms and Privacy Policy, and to receive marketing messages from GoodRx.


Wordmark logo (w/ dimension values)
GoodRx FacebookGoodRx InstagramGoodRx Twitter
Legitscript ApprovedPharmacyBBB Accredited Business
provider image
Welcome! You’re in GoodRx Provider Mode. Now, you’ll enjoy a streamlined experience created specifically for healthcare providers.