Having a vasectomy may slightly increase the risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer, new research has found. The Harvard study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology
, tracked 50,000 men and determined those who had a vasectomy had a 10-22 percent greater risk of developing potentially fatal prostate cancer.
Researchers noted the overall death risk associated with vasectomy was "modest" but significant, MedPage Today
"The cumulative incidence of lethal prostate cancer during a 24-year follow-up was 1.6 percent," said Lorelei A. Mucci, of Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues. "Thus, these relative risks translate into small increases in absolute risk. The decision to opt for a vasectomy remains a highly personal one in which the potential risks and benefits must be considered."
The new results echo some previous studies linking vasectomy and prostate cancer. Past research, dating back to the early 1990s, has yielded conflicting results about the association between vasectomy and prostate cancer. Some studies have shown up to a twofold increase in the risk of prostate cancer after vasectomy, but others showed no association, the researchers noted.
"I think we need to tell men that vasectomy has some risk with prostate cancer, may be linked, but we don't know," said Stephen Freedland, M.D., a Duke University specialist not involved in the study. "It's something they need to be aware of and monitored, but really, to me, this is not something that is such a strong association that we need to be changing the way we practice, either prostate cancer screening or vasectomy."
For their study, Mucci and colleagues examined the association between vasectomy and prostate cancer among participants in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study
, a long-running research project involving men who were ages 40 to 75 at enrollment in 1986.
By 2010, 6,023 participants had newly diagnosed prostate cancer, including 811 lethal cases. Medical records showed that 12,321 of the men had vasectomies. An analysis of the results showed that vasectomy was associated with a 10 percent greater risk for prostate cancer overall, a 22 percent increased risk for an aggressive form of the disease, and a 19 percent higher risk of dying from cancer.
"Additional analyses suggested that the associations were not driven by differences in sex hormone levels, sexually transmitted infections, or cancer treatment," the authors said.
They added that it is possible the increased risk is, in part, due to men being more closely checked by a doctor after having a vasectomy than men who have not had the procedure.
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