Having vasectomy 'can raise the risk of prostate cancer'
Published 11/07/2014 | 02:30
HAVING 'the snip' raises the chances of developing prostate cancer and contracting the most aggressive form of the disease, a major study has found.
Research by Harvard University found that men who had a vasectomy procedure had a 10pc greater risk of contracting the disease in their lifetime.
It also found a sharp increase in the risk of contracting the most aggressive form of prostate cancer, although this type of the disease is still relatively rare.
The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) has carried out over 10,000 of the sterilisation procedures since 1973, but it's understood private doctors have conducted many thousands more.
The dangers appeared to be highest among men who had a vasectomy at a younger age, researchers said. The chance of developing the aggressive form of the disease increased among those who had a vasectomy before the age of 38.
Last night, UK charities said the study was "extremely important". Spokesmen advised that men needed to be told more about the risks of vasectomies.
The most recent figures for Ireland show that in 2010 a total of 3,125 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer.
One in eight men will develop the disease, with most cases occurring after the age of 65.
The majority of cases are "slow growing" and medical guidance often advises keeping the disease under surveillance.
Many men with the cancer will suffer no harm from it, while treatment options, including surgery and radiotherapy, can have serious side effects, such as erectile dysfunction and incontinence.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School tracked 50,000 men, aged between 40 and 75, from 1986 to 2010.
The findings, published in the 'Journal of Clinical Oncology', found during these 24 years that 25pc of men had vasectomies and 6,023 cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed.
In total, less than 2pc developed the most aggressive form of the disease, the research found. Some previous studies had suggested a connection between sterilisation and cancer.
Experts said it was not clear why the procedure would affect cancer incidence but it could relate to changes in the proteins in semen.
Lorelei Mucci, the research author and associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, said the findings suggested increased risks among those who had a vasectomy before the age of 38.