Womens Health

Male Infertility And Prostate Cancer

It seems that male infertility comes with a double whammy. Aside from making it hard to have children, infertility may heighten a man's risk for developing the more aggressive form of prostate cancer. This is according to a study that was published online on March 22, 2010 for the online journal Cancer. However, the authors say that more research is necessary before male fertility issues can be seen as a risk factor necessitating early prostate cancer screening.

In this study, researchers looked at the prostate cancer rate in 22,562 men undergoing evaluation for infertility at 15 different California infertility treatment centers between the years 1967 and 1998. The incidence for prostate cancer in this group was compared to that of a control group of males in the general population.

The investigators discovered that the infertile men developed aggressive prostate cancer at a rate 2.6 times that of the general population when the researchers factored for age, location of infertility treatment, and how long the men received treatment for infertility. Slower growing prostate cancers developed in the infertile men at a rate 1.6 times that of the general population.

Nothing Clear-Cut

Seattle urologist Thomas Walsh, MD, the lead author for this study, says that these results don't suggest any clear-cut explanation for the link between reproductive issues and aggressive prostate cancer. However, he believes the common denominator between these two issues may be a malfunction in the body's ability to repair DNA. This would suggest an increased vulnerability to carcinogens as well as a coexisting rise in the risk for developing cancer. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, there are some 7.3 million men and women in the United States who suffer from infertility.

Dr. Walsh says these findings should, "…generate new questions about [how male infertility] could be somehow translated into a tool to help identify young men at greatest risk for most aggressive [prostate] cancer." Walsh serves as director of male reproductive and sexual medicine as well as an assistant professor of urology at Seattle's University of Washington School of Medicine.

Early Predictor

Dr. Walsh believes that if these findings can be confirmed through more research, doctors may be able to use male infertility as an early predictor for the cancer and order early screening tests for infertile males. Prostate cancer remains among the most common cancers diagnosed in U.S. males and is the second most common cause of deaths due to cancer in men, topped only by lung cancer. This is according to the American Cancer Society. In 2009, some 192,000 men were found to have prostate cancer and 27,000 of these cases are considered to be terminal.

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