I often receive calls about the relationship between prostate cancer and vasectomy. There have been many studies that have looked into this relationship and this blog will shed some light on the issue and help men make an informed decision on having a vasectomy, one of the best methods of permanent contraception.
Men who had a vasectomy had a significantly greater risk of developing aggressive, potentially fatal prostate cancer, according to data from a 50,000-patient cohort study.
A recent study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology stated that the overall association between vasectomy and prostate cancer was modest.
The lead authors was quoted as saying, “I think we need to tell men that vasectomy has some risk with prostate cancer, may be linked, but we don’t know. 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.”
Studies dating back to the early 1990s have yielded conflicting results about the association between vasectomy and prostate cancer. Some studies have shown as much as a twofold increase in the risk of prostate cancer after vasectomy, whereas others showed no association, the authors noted.
During follow-up through 2010, 6,023 participants had newly diagnosed prostate cancer, including 811 lethal cases. The data showed that 12,321 of the men had vasectomies. The primary outcomes were the relative risk (RR) of total, advanced, high-grade, and lethal prostate cancer, adjusted for a variety of possible confounders.
Vasectomy did not have a significant association with low-grade or localized prostate cancer.
The study adds information to the discussion and controversy surrounding vasectomy and prostate cancer but leaves many questions unanswered. Use of transurethral resection of the prostate, statins used to treat elevated cholesterol levels, selenium, and a number of other factors can influence prostate cancer risk.
The study added little information that goes beyond what previous studies had shown, said Gregory Zagaja, MD, of the University of Chicago. The study suffered from the same limitations of studies that came before it.
Multiple experts state that no consensus exists about potential biological explanations for reported associations between vasectomy and prostate cancer or whether the association is biologically plausible.
Bottom Line: There is a modest risk of prostate cancer in men who undergo a vasectomy. All men, whether or not they have had a vasectomy, need to have a regular PSA and digital rectal exam. For more information on this topic and the relationship between prostate cancer and vasectomy, speak to your doctor.