Vasectomies do not increase risk of prostate cancer, study finds

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Vasectomies do not increase risk of prostate cancer, study finds

New research conducted at New Curtin University in Australia has found no evidence of a link between men getting a vasectomy and increasing their risk of prostate cancer.

Published in The Journal of Urology, scientists studied the population health data of 684,660 men with vasectomies living in Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom, including 9,754 men who had undergone vasectomy reversals.

What is a vasectomy?

A vasectomy is a form of male sterilization that is a safe, simple and effective birth control method that blocks or cuts the tubes carrying sperm from the testicles.  If done properly, vasectomies are nearly 100 percent effective and are intended to be permanent.  Nearly 15 percent of all men in the United States have had a vasectomy making it the fourth most common form of birth control.

Findings from new study

Past studies have looked at a possible link between men who had gotten a vasectomy and any increased risk of prostate cancer.  Previous evidence from these studies had been conflicting and has been debated for many years.  There were two studies from the early 1990s which showed an elevated risk of prostate cancer that had made the link between the two conflicting.

The purpose of the this new study was to find out if a vasectomy is considered a cause of prostate cancer , then the theory would be that any man who had had his vasectomy reversed would hypothetically reduce their risk of developing prostate cancer.  But, what the research found when they analyzed almost 10,000 men who had undergone vasectomy reversals, that there was no link between the procedure and prostate cancer.

Because of these findings from this study, it appears to indicate that there is no relationship between men who have undergone a vasectomy and increasing their risk of prostate cancer.

What past research has found

For many years, there has been controversy over whether vasectomies increased a man’s risk of prostate cancer or not.  It was once thought that a man who had a vasectomy was placing himself at a greater risk of developing prostate cancer or dying from it.  For instance, a recent 2014 study by Harvard scientists had studied just over 800 prostate cancer deaths and found that vasectomy was linked with about a 10 percent greater overall risk of prostate cancer and about a 20 percent higher risk of fatal prostate cancer. 

However, a more extensive and larger 2016 study of epidemiologists from the American Cancer Society, found no connection between vasectomies and overall risk of prostate cancer or dying from the disease.  The review by the researchers involved going over data of almost 364,000 men aged 40 and older who had participated in the Cancer Prevention Study II.  From that study, a little over 42,000 of the men had had a vasectomy.

This study represented the largest cohort study with the longest follow-up to date from 1986 to 2010 to examine the relationship of vasectomies to the total number of men with prostate cancer and those who succumbed to it.  This larger study provides more validity that vasectomies are unlikely to increase the risk of prostate cancer. 

Takeaway message for men

The decision whether to have a vasectomy or not is personal for every man.  Currently, research appears to be supporting that the risk of prostate cancer should not be a factor for men who are trying to make the decision of whether or not to have a vasectomy.  This current study along with other past research, has found little to no evidence of any link between vasectomies and prostate cancer.

All men who are contemplating the decision to have a vasectomy should have a thorough discussion with their urologist about their personal risk of the chance of the procedure leading to prostate cancer.