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Vasectomy Tied to Aggressive Prostate Cancer Risk

Update Date: Jul 11, 2014 10:55 AM EDT

A vasectomy is a medical procedure in which doctors sterilize men by clamping, cutting or sealing the vas deferens in each testicle. Even though this procedure is relatively safe, a new study is reporting that men who undergo a vasectomy have an increased risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer.

In this study, researchers from Harvard University examined data on over 49,400 American men. The data were collected over the span of 24 years staring in 1986. Throughout the study, there were a total of 6,023 cases of prostate cancer with 811 of them being fatal. When the researchers analyzed the potential role that a vasectomy played in prostate cancer risk, they found that the medical procedure could be linked to a 10 percent overall greater risk of developing prostate cancer.

More specifically, having a vasectomy increased one's risk of advanced prostate cancer by 20 percent. It increased a man's risk of developing fatal prostate cancer by 19 percent and was not tied to increasing one's risk of getting low-grade prostate cancer. The researchers found that even if men took preventive measures, such as getting regular prostate-specific antigen screenings, they still had a 56 percent increased risk of getting fatal prostate cancer if they have had a vasectomy. The researchers noted that absolute risk was very small.

"This study follows our initial publication on vasectomy and prostate cancer in 1993, with 19 additional years of follow-up and tenfold greater number of cases. The results support the hypothesis that vasectomy is associated with an increased risk of advanced or lethal prostate cancer," study co-author Lorelei Mucci, associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, said in a university news release reported by Philly.

The researchers recommend men to consult with their doctors regarding the risks involved with getting a vasectomy before making a decision. The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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