Infertility Treatments and Testicular Cancer

The Link Between Infertility and Testicular Cancer

An alarming link between men who are infertile and testicular cancer has been established. It appears that infertile men are at increased risk for developing this particular cancer, according to a report in the February 23 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

The most common cancer among young men in industrialized countries is testicular germ cell cancer. These nations seem to have the greatest number of incidents and they have become even more prevalent in the past 30 to 50 years. Along with the increase in testicular cancer, semen quality and male fertility has declined in these same countries.

Research Study Involving More than 20,000 Men

The study was conducted by Thomas J. Walsh, MD, MS, who was from the University of California, San Francisco at the time of the study, and is now at the University Of Washington School Of Medicine, Seattle. More than 20,000 males from California were included in the study, including more than 4,500 who had male factor infertility, based on a clinical presentation with abnormal analysis of semen criteria. The men were partners of women who were seeking infertility treatments between the years 1967 and 1998.

After the initial analysis, the men's records were linked to data from the California Cancer Registry to determine the number of testicular cancer cases that occurred between 1988 and 2004. A comparison between the occurrence of the disease in the group and the rates in the general population and those men who had testicular cancer before the infertility treatments were taken out of the study.

At the end of the study, the findings were stunning. Men who were infertile were nearly three times more likely to develop testicular cancer than those of the general population.

Fertility Treatments Not the Cause

The researchers do not believe the fertility treatments are the cause of the increased risk since none of the men received fertility drugs nor did they undergo any fertility related surgeries. They say the cause of this situation is due to faulty DNA repair which is connected both to tumors and to severe forms of male infertility.

..."A more plausible explanation is that a common exposure underlies infertility and testicular cancer," the authors concluded.

There have been more studies conducted on this subject, in Europe and elsewhere, that suggest a connection between genetics and environmental factors. Scandinavian studies suggest a continued increase in testicular germ cell cancers in men.

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