Study Links Vasectomy to Prostate Cancer
A new study from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) has found that men who have vasectomies are at an increased risk of developing prostate cancer. The researchers found no significant increase in the risk of low-grade prostate cancer among men with vasectomies, but instead found that those who had undergone the sterilization procedure had a higher risk of advanced and lethal prostate cancer. Overall, men who had vasectomies had about a 10 percent higher risk of prostate cancer than those who had not.
Largest Ever Study into Vasectomy/Prostate Cancer Link
The HSPH study, which appeared online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology on July 7, 2012, is the most comprehensive such study to look at the link between vasectomy and prostate cancer risk. It was a follow-up to HSPH’s 1993 study on vasectomy and prostate cancer risk. The researchers followed 49,405 men for 24 years, from 1986 to 2010. Twenty-five percent of the men in the study had had a vasectomy.
Over the course of the study period, 6,023 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer. 811 of those died of prostate cancer. The researchers found that a previous vasectomy was associated with a 20 percent higher risk of advanced prostate cancer and a 19 percent higher risk of lethal prostate cancer. Among men who received regular PSA screenings, the relative increase in lethal prostate cancer risk was 56 percent.
The researchers found that the younger a man was at the time of his vasectomy, the greater his risk for advanced or lethal prostate cancer. Men who had had their vasectomies before 38 years of age were found to be at the highest risk.
Researchers Rule out Bias
Previous studies into the possibility of a link between vasectomy and prostate cancer may have been biased. For one thing, men who receive vasectomies tend to receive better medical care and more regular PSA screening, meaning that they’d be more likely than men who did not receive vasectomies to be diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Nor could previous studies rule out the possibility that sexually transmitted infections or other potential risk factors may have contributed to higher rates of prostate cancer among study participants. For this study, however, researchers had access to enough information about the study participants to rule out these potential biases.
Overall Increase in Risk Is Small
Since previous research has failed to find a clear-cut link between vasectomy and prostate cancer, many experts advise taking these findings with a grain of salt. Prostate cancer treatments are steadily improving, and most men diagnosed with the disease don’t die from it.
Dr. Louis Kavoussi, chairman of urology at North Shore-LIJ Health System in New Hyde Park, N.Y., told CBS News, “I would be cautious about applying these findings to clinical practice right now. This is not like cigarette smoking causing a large number of people to develop lung cancer. This is a small increase in the risk of prostate cancer.”
New data from a HSPH study found a link between vasectomy and prostate cancer. Men who have had vasectomies are 10 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer. If you have had a vasectomy, don’t let it keep you up at night — experts say the relative increased risk is small.