Vasectomies & Prostate Cancer

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.  But a recent new study reviewing more than 7,000 prostate cancer deaths is challenging that notion. 

Epidemiologists from the American Cancer Society have found no connection between vasectomies and overall risk of prostate cancer or dying from the disease.  This study represents 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.  A 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.  This larger study provides more validity that vasectomies are unlikely to increase the risk of prostate cancer. 

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.

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.

Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related death in men (over 26,000 expected to diet this year) but it can often be treated successfully with surgery and radiation.  Many men have slow-growing tumors and are therefore more likely to die from another cause than prostate cancer.

The standard screening tool for prostate cancer is the prostate-specific antigen or PSA blood test.  PSA is a protein produced by the cells of the prostate gland and is often elevated in men with prostate cancer.

Men are also encouraged to reduce their risk of developing prostate cancer by maintaining a healthy body weight by exercising and eating a healthy diet and to quit smoking.