Struggle With Infertility? Researchers Say It Can Also Give You Cancer

By on June 22, 2013
Been recently diagnosed as infertile? You’re not alone: 1 out of 35 men also face infertility problems, thanks to a mix of genetic and hormone factors. But now a controversial new study says there’s much more to worry about, according to the June issue of Fertility and Sterility.

The risk? Up to a 3 fold increase in cancer rates.

““An azoospermic man’s risk for developing cancer is similar to that for a typical man 10 years older,” says Michael Eisenberg, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of urology and lead author of the study. “There is evidence that infertility may be a barometer for men’s overall health.”

The study, which was led by the Stanford University School of Medicine, was conducted on 2,238 infertile men who sought treatment at the Baylor Andrology Clinic from 1989 to 2009. The men were first evaluated at a median age of 35.7 years old, then tracked over a period of years up until their cancer diagnosis.

Out of 2,238 men, 29 men developed cancer. In contrast, around 17 men who were not infertile received a similar diagnosis.

What the Study Revealed About Cancer

Infertility has long been associated with other health risks, such as sexual dysfunction and high stress levels, but now a growing correlation with cancer may reveal more about the severity of being unable to reproduce.

But although cancer is being clearly defined as a substantial link among azoospermic men, researchers aren’t sure which type of cancer it is triggering the most.

In the study, the infertile men were diagnosed with several types of cancer, ranging from testicular cancer to brain cancer. Some men also developed cancers that bore no connection to a poor fertility rate, such as melanoma, a type of aggressive skin cancer.

What they do know is that specific types of infertility can dramatically increase or decrease a man’s cancer risk.

“Comparing the cancer risk of azoospermic and nonazoospermic infertile men revealed a major disparity: The azoospermic men were at a substantially elevated risk–nearly three times as likely to receive a diagnosis of cancer as men in the overall population,” says Bruce Goldman, a writer for the Stanford School of Medicine. “Infertile men who weren’t azoospermic, in contrast, exhibited a statistically insignificant increased cancer risk of only 1.4 times that of men in the overall population.”

The biggest risk factor that can increase a man’s cancer risk isn’t the type of infertility he has, however, it’s when he gets it. According to their findings, men who first developed infertility before age 30 were eight times more likely to develop any type of cancer.

That’s scary news–but it may reveal that infertility is a much more serious condition than previously thought. Some researchers believe infertility may simply be a symptom of a more serious issue, such as structural DNA damage or a genetic link that could wreck havoc on a sensitive reproductive system.

Readers: Do you know someone who struggles with infertility? Has he been diagnosed with cancer, or does he face a higher risk of it?

Men with low sperm production face increased cancer risk

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