Can a vasectomy increase prostate cancer risk?

Nancy Ferrari

Senior editor, Harvard Health

I’ve been thinking about getting a vasectomy, but a friend says that this can increase my risk of developing prostate cancer. Is this true?

Kevin R. Loughlin, M.D., M.B.A., director of Urologic Research at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, says:

Concern that getting a vasectomy could lead to prostate cancer flared in 1993 when the Harvard Health Professionals Follow-up Study reported that men who had undergone vasectomies were about one-and-a-half times more likely to develop prostate cancer than men who had not had the operation. The study was careful and large, including 10,055 men who’d had vasectomies and 37,800 who had not. Still, many experts were skeptical, pointing out that there were only 300 newly diagnosed cases of prostate cancer in the entire group. Some also noted that men who had undergone vasectomy were more likely to be under the care of a urologist and undergo tests leading to the diagnosis of early, clinically silent prostate cancer.

Indeed, many studies since 1993 have failed to find a link between a vasectomy and prostate cancer, and scientists have been unable to identify a biologically plausible reason why vasectomy might increase a man’s cancer risk. At present, most authorities, including the National Cancer Institute and the American Urological Association, agree that vasectomy does not increase the risk of prostate cancer.

You should still consider your options carefully. A vasectomy will make you unable to father children (see illustration below). Although a vasectomy can be reversed, the procedure is expensive and not always successful at restoring fertility. If you have even the slightest doubt about ending your chances for future fatherhood, I’d encourage you to hold off on the vasectomy and use another form of birth control.

A vasectomy

A vasectomy

During a vasectomy, a doctor will cut the vas deferens, the tube that transports sperm from the epididymis to the seminal vesicles, through small incisions in the scrotum. This keeps sperm from entering semen and prevents conception. The testicles continue to produce sperm, but the sperm are absorbed by the body. Semen is still ejaculated, but it contains no sperm.

Originally published June 2009; last reviewed April 7, 2011.

Comments:

  1. M

    Have a burning sensation or sharp pain near my testicles or tubes going to them before ejaculation. I too wish I didn’t do the procedure and and worried that it might mess with my prostate. The doctor put some titanium Clips or something on the Vans tubes. But he didn’t tell me he was going to do it until he was doing it. Does anyone know of a good doctor to do a reversal or put in a switch?

  2. Geoff Kachel

    I have no doubt that vasectomies cause early onset prostate cancer in men. I had a vasectomy at age 30, prostate out at 51(2017). If I hadn’t required a rebore at age 50, I would not have been around to see very many more birthdays. The medical fraternity will never concede there is a link between the two, imagine the ramifications of birth control being thrust firmly back onto women. Statistics can be interpreted & analysed in many ways, & the establishment have & will continue to manipulate statistics to suit their own ends to deny the existence of this issue, and even more sadly justify the continuation of this procedure, which is changing the lives of many men irrevocably. It was common knowledge amongst the many health professiionals that I had contact with during my treatment, that there has been a surge in the number of men in their 40’s & 50’s requiring treatment for prostate cancer, particularly in recent years. IMO it is sadly creating its own cottage industry, requiring extensive and very expensive treatment for those afflicted.
    I also believe that a causal link will also be established between vasectomy & low post operation testosterone levels. I also required treatment (Reandron) for the low testosterone levels immediately prior to my cancer diagnosis, and have alarmingly been advised by a friend who had near identical ages of vasectomy & cancer diagnosis, that the Reandron actually fed the cancer in his prostate. Sadly for him, his cancer has spread & he is being forced to undergo extensive chemotherapy, with no guarantees as to his survival chances.
    I have no doubt that I will be accused of being a crackpot or similar, but I question the motives of those who do criticise, for are they protecting the welfare of any current or future patients, or their bank accounts. Having just gone through the trauma of the diagnosis and extremely expensive treatment (with preventable & I feel very unnecessary complications), I ask any such detractors, walk a mile in my shoes & see how you feel about this matter then.
    Perhaps though, the saddest thing, this whole situation has occurred due to a convenience, that of we as a race, taking the easy way out on the matter of birth control.
    Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

  3. Michael Wheildon

    I had a vasectomy so that my wife would not get pregnant again. Five years later she dumped me for her so called soul mate. I’ve had a bad feeling about the vasectomy ever since. My PSA levels have been increasing over the last 12 months, and this Monday I’ve got to have an MRI on my Prostate! I’m worried! I have 2 sons and 2 daughters from our marriage and I want to see them grow old if possible. I think I was too flippant in regards to the Vascectomy, and I urge any brothers out there to think carefully about getting the snip.

  4. jay

    I had a vasectomy, and always had a dull ache after sex, years later I now have prostate ca and an enlarged prostate. If I could go back in time I would opt out of the procedure.

  5. Brian

    I am about 3 months post Vas and everything is fine. The first few weeks were kind of rough, but I expected that going into the surgery. My father and uncle both have prostate cancer (my father never had a Vas, not sure about uncle) so at 39 I am now getting my PSA and prostate checked annually. My first PSA reading was 0.6. I clearly have family history to contend with, so if I do ever get prostate cancer I won’t be able to say it was just because of the Vas.

  6. Science over anecdotes

    Many people here mistakenly place more importance on anecdotal evidence over scientific and statistical studies that have large sample sizes. “I got a vasectomy and then got cancer a few years later (or had altered T- levels).” Surely it should have occurred to you that perhaps you would have suffered those ailments regardless of vasectomy. Or that other factors or variables like lifestyle choices and diet could be causes? Correlation is not causation. It’s erroneous but not surprising that people still trust individual anecdotes over peer-reviewed scientific studies.

  7. Beto

    Laura,
    I imagine you were on some sort of birth control in your life. Why did you tamper with your body but advise men not to?

  8. Fred

    I had the traditional bilateral vasectomy when I was 27. I am now 63 years of age and have had no related health problems from the vasectomy other than now having an enlarged prostate. From reading various articles, the enlarged prostate is most likely caused by age and has no relationship to having had a vasectomy. I would suspect it will take yet another 50 years of research and studies for doctors to determine if there are any long term side effects of having a vasectomy.

  9. Dale Bailey

    I had a vasectomy and after, my wife no longer wanted sex. I too had a lot of pain and bruised like purple cabbage. I still
    have mild discomfort after ejaculation. Im divorced after inability to be a sperm donor. Sad. Life goes on! My psa is 1. something. I do have an enlarged prostate but no cancer, dont know about any of these studies. Drs arent GOD!

  10. Jqa

    https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/study-finds-no-link-between-vasectomy-and-prostate-cancer-risk.html

  11. The bottom line is – don’t tamper with your body! The way you were created is the way you should remain.

    • Regrets

      I agree with Laura. I regret getting a vasectomy in 2003. I have had a constant dull ache since then. Now I have granuloma and cyst pain also. I cannot get a reversal because the surgeon took a large chunk of the vas out. A difficult way to learn that elective surgery is not worth the risk. One urologist offered to remove my testicles. I can’t believe I did this to myself!

  12. Educated Patient

    Folks: I have done an extensive amount of research of all studies related to Vasectomy and Prostate Cancer utilizing google scholar. Bottom line–older studies (pre-2000) contended there might be a causal relationship, but all of the recent studies with VERY large populations almost unanimously agree that there is NO causal relationship. Folks who will get prostate cancer will get prostate cancer regardless of whether they have a vasectomy or not. I did the research because I am looking into getting the procedure and I am confident there is no relationship. With that said, I am likely to get prostate cancer since it runs in my family, but I will just be diligent with the check-ups. I recommend getting the surgery if it is the right choice for you and just being diligent in your annual checks, coupled with proper nutrition as relayed above.

    • Joe wonder

      All studies???

    • Cherie

      My bf recently had this procedure done and it suffering from a hemotoma. A very real side affect if you look it up. They say it happens to 1 in 1000 but it seems more common than that. He is in constant pain, feels nausea and helpless most days. It’s been over a month. They say time will heal but I’ve read cases that go on for years. Think twice guys and use a condom.

  13. Steve Ryan

    It is Prostate, NOT Prostrate.

    • Crocodile

      I had the first half of my vasectomy without freezing. Ahole doctor just wanted to go home early on Friday afternoon and couldn’t for the freezing to take. Last vasectomy I ever have

  14. Warren

    I had a vasectomy in 2001.In 2005 i was found to have a very high grade of prostrate cancer.So the prostrate was removed.There is no history in my family of prostrate cancer.
    Yet a friend, whos father had prostrate cancer,has been tested every year and is all clear but my friend has a very healthy sex life,like every day.Its like the saying use it or lose it may have something to it.
    I would not knowing what i know now have a vasectomy.

  15. Rocky

    I just had a vasectomy last month and the mild chronic constant pressure is not worth it. The pain after ejaculation makes me want to avoid it completely. Im 37 and this surgery is a major regret of mine. If I could undo it and make the symptoms go away for 10k, I’d do it. The feeling Im left with where my belt would normally sit is enough to leave me with less than 4 hours of sleep. This is the worst.

    • Tom

      Hopefully you’re feeling better now. I too had the pressure and discomfort you describe, but it eventually went away. I think it was at least 4 months before all of my discomfort went away. I have friends with similar experiences also.

    • D

      I considered having a vasectomy recently however decided against it mostly because of the small risk of chronic pain. If you read the literature you’ll find chronic pain in a small but considerable percent of men after the procedure that may persist for years. The risk of prostate cancer may exist, the literature is not clear on that based on what I read, but in my mind better safe than sorry. I’m not going to have a vasectomy now.

  16. Lg

    I had a vasectomy at age 22, now 47, healthy and active. The key to no cancer is a vegetarian based diet. You are 3 times less likely to get cancer if you eat a plant rich diet with little or no meat. And, cut out all deep fried, sugary & processed foods. Combine that with exercise or better yet, sexercise, and your golden. : ) Wonder how many of those men in the study with prostate cancer were vegetarian? Not many, I bet. Save nature, go veg!

  17. Bruce

    I am contemplating The above-noted procedure, however I am hesitant, due to the fact that prostrate cancer runs in my family. He even though it appears that there is no definitive link, has not dispel the fear that the research is wrong.

  18. Les

    I had vasectomy when I was 32 and I am now 75. About 20 years ago I had a brief episode of low T, which cleared up by itself in a few months with no treatment. my sex life remains very active at least twice a week with no difficulties obtaining an erection but my semen production is reduced. I run, lift weights, do yoga and pilates several times a week. I get PSA once per year and see a urologist for checkup once a year. I do take herbal extracts Nettle Root, Saw Palmetto and Tribulus Terrestris, which may or may not help.

  19. Lane

    Now where I work it is the exact opposite. All the men who have had or have prostrate Cancer were all men who did not have Vasectomies. None of the men who had Vasectomies have now or have ever had Prostrate Cancer so what can on believe? So when the Doctors run surveys and test it shows Vasectomies men prostrate Cancer but when you ask the people you work with you find the opposite is true, Geeeeeeees

  20. Don

    I had a vasectomy at the age of 36 and for my 50th birthday, I had surgery for prostate cancer. Cancer does not run in my family.

  21. Derrick

    I had a vasectomy when I was 25 I am still as rampant now at 68 as I was befor and have no troubles ejaculating my only problem is not maintaining an erection.l put that down to heavy smoking in my younger years.

  22. Quentin

    I am 46 and have a scheduled Vasectomy in a few weeks. I’m a healthy male meaning I eat mainly organic whole foods and have never been out of shape or overweight. I workout 4 days a week and still play basketball with college student. I have great numbers across the board (I.e. BP, cholesterol, etc.) and have always been in the very top percentile of healthy adult men. I’m 6’2″ and 185 lbs. But I am a little skeptical and afraid of this research. It is the only thing that’s holding me back. If anyone have any info out there that could help shed more light, please advise. Thank you.

  23. Jess

    My husband had a vasectomy and got the ‘all clear’ from the dr a few months ago. Now I am 6 weeks pregnant. My husband had testicular cancer 15 years ago and had part of his testicle removed. This vasectomy was performed with 1/2 of 1 testicle removed. Could this be the cause of recanalization?

    • Your husband

      Your a slut cheater the DNS test proved it

      • The pool boy

        To “your husband” if you hadn’t been sleeping with the babysitter she wouldn’t had needed help cleaning the pool walls by me.

      • Baby Sitter

        To “Pool Boy” if she would have polished him off like she was suppose to, he would have testicular cancer. So now I do all the pole polishing in this house. Btw, its not white algae i the pool.I spit all his swimmers in the pool. Well not swimmers just his semen. Thanks for cleaning it up.

  24. Paul

    I had a V when I was 28, my testosterone level were also in the cellar! I had to take T jel however after changing my diet and started to eat clean, my T levels went up over 600 no gel for over a year!! I am 57, diagnosed with LOW t at around 50. took jell for over 5 years, not good EAT CLEAN IS THE KEY AND EXERCISE WALKING TESTAMENT! CHOLESTEROL WENT FROM 250-170 IN ONE MONTH NO GIMMIC FOOD IS MEDICINE!!

  25. PepperReed

    I wonder if having a ‘reversal’ would impact the results (AKA clearing out the pipes is good health), the type of vas (what type metal clip etc used) and why cells would proliferate (scar tissue?). So many questions that may answer this issue. I’ve notices the T drop in my hubs and it’s sad, but cancer is WAY worse and it seems to be pretty common now.

  26. Jason jones

    I had a vasectomy in2003 , I am 56 and now have prostrate cancer. I have 8 friends that have prostrate cancer and all have had vasectomy .

    • Daniel

      You probably all smoked and drank alcohol too, lots of things contribute to cancer. There will be other groups of friends out there that have all had a vasectomy, and none of them have cancer.

  27. Lee Samuelson

    Ltg Curious as to this study. I had a vasectomy in 96 and am now 52. Just had my testosterone tested just to see. I work out lifting and have a diet that is supposed to promote testosterone. Well results from the Mayo CLinic had a range of 240 – 950 which means that so far is what they have tested. I was 983. I have found that my numbers are in the upper end for all ages and from variety of test ages only those around 19 years old had higher.
    NO I do not take any hormones or steroids at all.

  28. Ltg

    Prostate cancer is the least of your worries. I had a vas when i was 27, at age 48 my testosterone levels were in rhe celler. Reasearch shows there is a coorlation between a vasectomy and later low testosterone.
    Its been a freaking bightmare. Now i take testosterone gell and am watching my balls simply shrivel up.

  29. STEVE

    Considering th recent study that came out in July, 2014 showing increased risk of advanced Prostate Cancer in patient’s receiving a vasectomy, does this change the position of this article?

    Please advise.
    Thanks.

    • Are you a pastor Steve? There are 43 children diagnosed with cancers every day and that have nothing to do with vasectomy. Google it out and stop scaring people!

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