Vasectomy May Increase Prostate Cancer Risk, Study Says

Men who have the procedure may be 20 percent more likely to develop an advanced form of the disease.

Men who have a vasectomy may increase their risk of developing advanced prostate cancer by 20 percent, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). The study, recently published the Journal of Clinical Oncology, is the largest and most comprehensive of its kind.

The American Cancer Society reports that prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men. It’s diagnosed most commonly in those who are over the age of 65. According to an HSPH report:

The researchers analyzed data from 49,405 U.S. men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, who were followed for up to 24 years from 1986 to 2010. During that time, 6,023 cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed, including 811 lethal cases. One in four of the men in this study reported having a vasectomy.

The results showed a 10% increased risk of prostate cancer overall in men who had a vasectomy. Vasectomy was not significantly associated with risk of low-grade cancer. However, vasectomy was associated with a stronger risk of advanced and lethal prostate cancer, with an increased risk of 20% and 19% respectively. Among men who received regular PSA screening, the relative increase in risk of lethal prostate cancer was 56%. The effect appeared to be stronger among men who had a vasectomy at a younger age.

Despite these findings, researchers stress that the increase in absolute risk associated with having the procedure is low. According to the report, roughly 15 percent of men choose the procedure as a method of contraception.

“The decision to opt for a vasectomy as a form of birth control is a highly personal one,” the study’s co-author Kathryn Wilson said in the report.  “A man should discuss the risks and benefits with his physician.”