Harvard Men's Health Watch

Cancer risk linked to vasectomy

Having a vasectomy is associated with a slightly higher chance of aggressive prostate cancer, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Researchers reviewed health data on more than 49,000 men, covering 1986 to 2010—the longest and largest study to date of the alleged link between
vasectomy and prostate cancer.

About 25% of the men in the study had had vasectomies. Compared with men who had not had vasectomies, they were about 20% more likely to have a prostate cancer that was aggressive (more apt to spread) or lethal. The actual number of men affected, however, was small. The study identified three additional aggressive cancers per 1,000 men who'd had a vasectomy.

Vasectomy remains a common contraceptive procedure for men, and this study is unlikely to make men stop getting it. Also, the study doesn't prove that vasectomy causes cancer or explain how it may do so. It's also possible that men who have vasectomies tend to see urologists earlier in life than other men, and would thus be likely to be offered cancer screening and be diagnosed.

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