Men who undergo vasectomies do not increase their risk of developing prostate cancer, according to researchers from Australia.
Their study, “The Effect of Vasectomy Reversal on Prostate Cancer Risk: International Meta-Analysis of 684,660 Men with Vasectomies,” appeared in the Journal of Urology.
Despite significant research, data on the link between vasectomies and the rate of prostate cancer have been inconsistent, with some studies finding a limited effect, while others did not find any association.
“The link between vasectomy and prostate cancer has been debated for many years after two studies from the early 1990s showed an elevated risk of prostate cancer in men who had undergone vasectomies,” Sean Randall, the study’s lead author, said in a press release.
A potential explanation for the results demonstrating an elevated risk is an experimental bias, the researchers observed. Because prostate cancer often goes undetected throughout a patient’s lifetime, any factor potentially increasing its diagnosis, such as the screening related to a vasectomy, could artificially increase cancer rates compared to men who are not undergoing such screening tests.
Among the potential biological mechanisms by which vasectomy could induce prostate cancer are changes in levels of hormones, growth factors, and immune factors, as well as the production of sperm antibodies.
If vasectomies increases the risk of prostate cancer, then vasectomy reversals should lower such a risk, the researchers hypothesized.
“Our research studied the theory that if a vasectomy is considered a cause of prostate cancer, then vasectomy reversal should hypothetically decrease the risk of prostate cancer,” Randall said.
The scientists at Australia’s Curtin University assessed the health data of 684,660 men who had vasectomies from Australia, Canada, and the U.K., including 9,754 men who underwent vasectomy reversals, from 1972 to 2016.
This approach reduces the risk of bias, because all the men had undergone similar screening for prostate cancer, the investigators said.
“Our analysis of almost 10,000 vasectomy reversals found no link between the procedure and prostate cancer at all,” Randall said.
The study also indicated there is no correlation between having a vasectomy and the rate of prostate cancer, he said.
“Our research, therefore, shows that the risk of prostate cancer should not rate as a factor for men who are weighing up the decision of whether or not to have a vasectomy,” Randall wrote.
“Based on the results of this study and in line with previous findings, no concrete causal link between prostate cancer and vasectomy has been established,” the researchers wrote.
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