Causes of Testicular Cancer

The exact cause of most testicular cancers is not known, but there are definite links to other conditions which will increase a man’s risk of developing the cancer.   Currently, researchers are searching for which genes are responsible for testicular cancer.  By identifying the genes responsible, more targeted therapies can be developed to fight the testicular cancer cells. 

Thus far, what research has found is that many testicular cancer cells harbor extra copies of a part of chromosome 12. Abnormalities in this chromosome (different genes) are also related to diseases like Parkinson’s, narcolepsy, and nonsyndromic deafness. Chromosome 12 is not the only one which has been linked to testicular cancer, but more studies need to be done to learn exactly which abnormal genes in the chromosomes might lead to testicular cancer. Recent studies have linked two genes, KITLG and SPRY4, involved in testicular development to an increased risk of the cancer – but again more research is needed. 

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For now, we do have a set of risk factors and possible causes that can help identify those people who are most at risk.  Of course, frequent self-examination can help you identify testicular cancer early.  But educating yourself and knowing your risk can also be beneficial in identifying if your symptoms might be related to testicular cancer. 

Risk factors/ possible causes -

·         Undescended testicle: This means that one or both testicles don’t move from the abdomen down to the scrotum before birth.  The connection between undescended testicles and testicular cancer is not known, but those who have this condition are at a higher risk for the cancer.   

·         Family history of testicular cancer:  If your father had testicular cancer, you are 4-6x as likely to get testicular cancer.  If a brother has it the risk jumps even higher.

·         HIV infection: those with human immunodeficiency virus, or have developed AIDS, have been shown to have a higher risk of testicular cancer

·         Carcinoma in situ of the testicle: this is a testicular germ cell cancer that is non-invasive and may or not spread and progress to invasive cancer.  The cells in testicular carcinoma in situ are abnormal at any rate, and put those who have it at higher risk for developing invasive cancer that must be treated.

·         Having had testicular cancer before: 3-4% of men who had cancer in one testicle will at some point in the future develop cancer in the other testicle.

·         Race/ethnicity:  White/Caucasian men are at higher risk of developing testicular cancer than Black or Asian men. 

·         Age: much more common in younger men (15-35), but can occur at any age

·         Obesity:  Recent studies have linked obesity to testicular cancer in young men (ages 18-29)

·         Klinefelter Syndrome: this syndrome or any other condition that causes the abnormal development of the testes, can increase the risk of developing testicular cancer

Key facts about testicular cancer:

·         Most prevalent type of cancer in younger men, ages 15-35

·         Men who are 20-39 years old have highest risk

·         Average age of diagnosis:  33 years old

·         Highly treatable and usually curable

·         95%+ survival rate

Main symptoms:

·         Painless lump usually detected by the patient himself

·         Feeling of heaviness or aching in the scrotum

·         Breast tenderness or growth

·         Testicular swelling

·         Fluid collection in the scrotum

Diagnostic Tests: Once lump is detected

·         Ultrasound

·         Blood test for tumor markers – AFP and HCG

·         Biopsy

Treatment: Depends on type of testicular tumor and stage of the tumor, but usually surgery  

·         Surgery   

·         Radiation  

·         Chemotherapy