Don't avoid vasectomy for fear of prostate cancer: study

(Reuters Health) - Men considering a vasectomy shouldn’t worry that the procedure will increase their risk of prostate cancer, researchers say.

In a review of past research, they did find a slight increase in the risk of prostate cancer among men who had vasectomies, but the study’s lead author said the finding might be due to other factors and should not be a concern.

“It shouldn’t stop you from gaining something that is otherwise very effective for family planning purposes,” said Dr. Bimal Bhindi, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

A vasectomy is a minor surgical procedure for men that is a 100 percent effective form of birth control, but can be difficult to reverse. The procedure prevents sperm from entering the semen ejaculated during sex.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among American men, according to the American Cancer Society. About one in seven U.S. men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and about one in 39 will die of it.

Data in the late 1980s suggested a link between vasectomy and subsequent prostate cancer, Bhindi told Reuters Health.

There was some concern over the quality of that research, he said. More recent studies also produced mixed results.

“We thought it would be good to synthesize it all and do an meta-analysis to get a unified answer,” said Bhindi.

For the review, the researchers looked through the medical literature and found 53 studies examining the link between vasectomy and prostate cancer risk.

Overall, the data did not suggest a link between vasectomy and fast-growing, advanced or deadly prostate cancer.

The data did suggest there might be a 0.6 percent increased risk of prostate cancer from vasectomy, which would mean about 0.5 percent of all prostate cancers might be due to the procedure.

But that small an increase would not be clinically significant and shouldn’t concern a man who’s considering the procedure, Bhindi said. Furthermore, he said, the increase is so small that other unmeasured and unknown factors could explain it.

“Vasectomy is a cost-effective, highly efficient and highly accessible contraceptive option for men,” said Bhindi. Concerns over prostate cancer shouldn’t keep men from considering that option, he added.

SOURCE: JAMA Internal Medicine, online July 17, 2017.