Study Finds Infertile Men May Have Increased Risk of Prostate Cancer
Male infertility may be associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer, possibly because of damage to male sex chromosomes, according to a study report published in March. The report suggests infertile men may benefit from earlier prostate cancer screening.
Researchers led by Dr. Thomas Walsh of Washington University and the American Urological Association (AUA) published the report in the journal Cancer. Their study tracked more than 22,000 men tested for infertility between 1967 and 1998.
Aggressive Cancer Risk More than Double for Infertile Men
In the ten years after testing, 1.2 percent of those men found to be infertile developed prostate cancer, compared to 0.4 percent of those found to be fertile. Researchers made allowances for other known risk factors - older age, obesity, family history, and being African-American - and concluded that infertile men are 2.6 times more likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer and 1.6 times more likely to developed a slow-growing form.
Prostate cancer is among the most common cancers in men. It is estimated that about 160 of every 100,000 men are affected by the disease, and that about 26 of those die from it.
Damaged Chromosomes Suspected but Not Confirmed
Researchers suspect that damaged male sex chromosomes are the common factor between infertility and increased prostate cancer, but have yet to establish a clear connection.
Walsh said the fact that the rates for aggressive and slow-growing cancers are different rules out the possibility that detection of the disease in the infertile men is simply the result of them seeking more medical attention. He said study results suggest infertile men should consider cancer screening before the standard age of 50, although he stopped short of endorsing the AUA's suggestion that all men begin screening at age 40.
Dr. Otis Brawley of the American Cancer Society agreed that infertile men should consider earlier screening, but said the society's threshold of 50 years old is still valid for the general population.
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