Vasectomy and Prostate Cancer

Is there a link between prostate cancer and having a vasectomy? The majority of studies conducted thus far -- in particular, one conducted in 1993 by the National Institutes of Health -- have not found any convincing link between the two. However, researchers continue to investigate the possibility in order to come up with a definitive answer.

An Introduction to Vasectomy and Prostate Cancer

Some studies have raised questions about a possible relationship between prostate cancer and vasectomy. Such a relationship, if proven, would be of importance, because about 1 in 6 men over age 35 in the United States has had a vasectomy.
 

What Does the Research Say?

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men and the second leading cause of cancer-related death in American men, after lung cancer.
 
In March 1993, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) sponsored a conference to clarify the available evidence on the relationship between vasectomy and prostate cancer. Scientists reviewed and carefully weighed all of the data available at that time, including results from published and unpublished studies. They determined that the results of research on the association between prostate cancer and vasectomy were not consistent.
 
In addition, the scientists could not find any convincing biological explanation for a link between a vasectomy and an increased risk of prostate cancer. Based on these findings, the expert panel concluded that even if having a vasectomy could increase a man's risk of developing prostate cancer, the increase in risk is relatively small.
 
In 1997, another committee met that included members from the scientific, medical, industrial, and advocacy communities. This group was charged with developing a national plan to outline scientific efforts involving prostate cancer research. Their final report, published in August 1998, concluded that the evidence supporting a role for vasectomy in the development of prostate cancer is weak.
 
Researchers continue to investigate the possible relationship between prostate cancer and vasectomy. The majority of studies conducted thus far have upheld the conclusions made at the 1993 conference.
 
Although a few studies have reported a link between the two, it is possible that other factors, including chance, may be responsible for the association suggested in these studies.
 
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