Harvard Prostate Knowledge

Good News: Vasectomies Probably Don’t Cause Prostate Cancer

For a lot of people, the prospect of having children is a terrifying one. So terrifying, in fact, that they are willing to take medical precautions against the possibility. Vasectomies are the most popular form of permanent birth control in men. But some people worry that vasectomies cost more than just the price of the procedure. The operation has a controversial history, with detractors claiming that it increases men’s long-term risk for developing prostate cancer. New science appears to disprove that theory.

A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology followed 84,000 men over the course of fifteen years. The researchers found no correlation between having a vasectomy and developing advanced-stage prostate cancer.

There was, however, a slight increase in risk for developing low to intermediate level tumors. The relationship is not a clear one, though. Guys who had vasectomies were more likely to submit themselves for PSA testing, to detect early stage prostate cancer.

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The new science supports four of the seven most recent studies on the subject, which found no clear link between vasectomies and prostate cancer.

The science still isn’t unanimous, though. One of the studies in question did find that vasectomies were correlated with high-risk tumors. Another one also found that guys who get vasectomies expose themselves to an increase in general risk.

“There is no established biologic rationale for an association of vasectomy with prostate cancer,” wrote the researchers of the latest study.

In a vasectomy, the vas deferens is either severed or sealed in order to prevent sperm from being released. Scientists worried that penning up the spermatozoa would trigger the immune system. The scenario remains largely hypothetical.

So if you’re considering a vasectomy, there may be less cause for cancer worry than popularly believed. Scientists from Harvard published an editorial about the new study, saying they “believe [cancer risk] should carry little weight in the context of other considerations relevant to deciding whether to have a vasectomy.”

If the idea of having a baby is scarier to you than the probably-remote possibility of developing prostate cancer, then a vasectomy may be a good option. Of course, even with a vasectomy, you are still exposed to STDs if you have unprotected sex. Despite the condom’s nearly universal contempt among the men of the world, it is still the most effective and accessible form of birth control and STD prevention available. If you’re still worried about your prostate, even in light of the science, stick to rubbers.

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