By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Researchers are divided in their opinion over whether there is an association between vasectomy and the development of prostate cancer. The majority of studies do not support such a link, but some do.
What is vasectomy?
Vasectomy is a common surgical procedure that provides an effective and permanent form of contraception for men. This minor operation involves a pair of tubes called the vas deferens, which carry sperm from the epididymis to the ducts involved in ejaculation, being cut and sealed so that sperm is no longer present in a man’s ejaculate.
Association between prostate cancer and vasectomy
Prostate cancer affects millions of men worldwide. Some studies have reported an increase in the relative risk of prostate cancer in men who undergo a vasectomy. Several large studies, however, have shown no such association.
Some researchers argue that earlier studies revealing an association between prostate cancer and vasectomy were performed before the introduction of standard methods of prostate screening such as DRE (digital rectal examination) and monitoring of blood PSA (prostate specific antigen) levels. These researchers point out that the studies may have therefore been inadequately designed to assess the association between vasectomy and prostate cancer.
Some recent studies have also refuted the existence of any association between vasectomy and prostate cancer. These studies have considered other factors that could increase the risk of prostate cancer such as previous illnesses, urinary symptoms, surgeries, smoking and alcohol consumption. Studies that include individuals of varied ethnicity and race have also been unable to provide evidence of any increased risk for prostate cancer in men who undergo vasectomy.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Jan 22, 2014