The Link between Testicular Cancer and Infertility
About the Study
In a study conducted by Thomas J. Walsh, M.D., M.S. at the University of California, San Francisco, data gathered from more than 22,000 male partners of couples seeking fertility treatment between the years of 1967 and 1998 were analyzed. Of these, more than 4500 men had male factor infertility, as based on the criteria of abnormal semen analysis. The results of the study were alarming, stating that infertile men are nearly three times more likely to develop testicular cancer than their fertile counterparts.
Researchers believe the reason for the increased risk of testicular cancer lies in DNA repair, since severe forms of male infertility are associated with faulty DNA repair - which also is connected to the development of tumors. Genetics and environmental factors are also implicated although it is not clear whether semen quality and environmental factors are connected.
What is Testicular Cancer?
Testicular cancer (TC) occurs when the cells in either or both testes become malignant. The testicles are male sex glands that produce and store sperm and they are the main source of testosterone in men. The development of the reproductive organs along with the development of other male physical characteristics is determined by the hormone testosterone. Testicular cancers are classified according to the characteristics of the tumor - they are either seminomas or nonseminomas. One percent of all cancers in men in the US are testicular cancers, occurring most frequently in men between the ages of 15 and 39.
What are the Risk Factors?
Although the exact causes of testicular cancer are unknown, there are several risk factors that can make a man more prone to developing the disease.
· Undescended testicle or cryptorchidism: It is normal for the testes to descend from the abdomen into the scrotum before birth. If one or both don't move down, then the risk for TC is increased. Even if surgery is performed to move the testicle down, the risk remains high and applies to both testicles.
· Congenital abnormalities: Risk increases for men born with abnormalities of the testicles, penis, or kidneys. Men who have inguinal hernia (hernia in the groin where the thigh meets the abdomen) are also more at risk.
· History of TC: If a man has had TC previously in one testicle, he is at risk for it a second time in the other testicle.
· Family History of TC: A man who has family members (father, brother) with TC is at higher risk for the disease.