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The Association Between Vasectomy and Prostate Cancer

Is There Really Any Link Between the Two?

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Updated January 09, 2009

Vasectomy is an extremely common surgery in the United States and across the world. Millions of men in the world have undergone this procedure over the last few decades.

Multiple reports in the media and in the scientific literature have linked men who have had vasectomies with higher rates of prostate cancer.

Have There Ever Been Studies Linking Prior Vasectomy With Prostate Cancer?

Yes.

Some studies have shown that men who have had a vasectomy are more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. These studies were done by looking back at the lives of men who had prostate cancer and determining whether they had previously had a vasectomy or not. They showed that an association between having a vasectomy and prostate cancer did exist, but they could not explain why this existed.

Have Studies Shown That Prior Vasectomy and Prostate Cancer Are Not Related?

Yes.

In fact, multiple studies have been performed (many of which were quite large and more carefully constructed) that have shown no association between prior vasectomy and prostate cancer. They found that men with prior vasectomies did not have elevated rates of prostate cancer than the average man.

So, Do Vasectomies Cause Prostate Cancer?

Almost definitely not and here’s why:

Even if you only focused on the studies that linked the two, you would still not have an explanation as to why the two are linked.

In all the studies that have been performed that link vasectomy and prostate cancer, there has been one critical and unavoidable piece of bias that makes their results difficult to accept: Because men who have had vasectomies are already familiar with the medical system, their urologist or other physician, and the need for health maintenance accomplished through doctor visits, exams, and testing, they are far more likely than other men to go to their doctors for prostate cancer screening.

Men with prior vasectomies have more contact with their urologist than average men and are more likely to get PSA testing at the appropriate age. This increases their chances of having prostate cancer detected simply because they are being tested for it.

What it does not mean is that men with vasectomies necessarily actually have more prostate cancer, just that they are more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer (in other words, more likely that their prostate cancer will be found).

Additionally, the major urological and cancer organizations no longer suggest that physicians discuss the risk of prostate cancer with men who are thinking about vasectomy.

Sources:

Barone MA, Hutchinson PL, Johnson CH, Hsia J, Wheeler J. Vasectomy in the United States, 2002. J Urol. 2006 Jul;176(1):232-6.

Bernal-Delgado E; Latour-Perez J; Pradas-Arnal F; Gomez-Lopez LI. The association between vasectomy and prostate cancer: a systematic review of the literature. Fertil Steril. 1998 Aug;70(2):191-200.

Dennis LK; Dawson DV; Resnick MI. Vasectomy and the risk of prostate cancer: a meta-analysis examining vasectomy status, age at vasectomy, and time since vasectomy. Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis. 2002;5(3):193-203.

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