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Vasectomy may increase the risk of prostate cancer

Vasectomy has long been considered to be a highly effective method of male birth control. However, according to a recent Harvard study, men who have had a vasectomy may have a higher risk of later developing prostate cancer. Experts aren’t sure why the procedure could affect the incidence of prostate cancer, but speculate that it may involve changes in the proteins in semen or the impact of the procedure on the prostate.

Published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the study is the largest to date to examine the link between vasectomy and cancer.  From 1986 to 2010 the researchers tracked the health of 50,000 men between the ages of 40 and 75. Over 24 years, 25% of the men had vasectomies, and 6,023 cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed. The researchers found that those who had vasectomies were 10% more likely to develop prostate cancer. Within this group, those men who had vasectomies before age 38 were at an even higher risk of later being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Fortunately, less than 2% developed the most aggressive form of the disease. Although there was an increased risk of developing prostate cancer, the researchers stressed that the risk was small.

Malcolm Mason, Cancer Research UK’s prostate cancer expert said of the findings:

“The extra risk of developing prostate cancer after having vasectomy appears to be small but of the few that do go on to develop the disease, a higher number will develop an aggressive form. Vasectomy is still an important option for contraception but this information should form part of the discussion before a man makes an informed decision as to whether or not it is right for him.”

Read more about vasectomy here.

Read more about the study here and here. 

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