Infertility link to prostate cancer

Infertile men may be much more likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer, research suggests.

MRI scan of a 65-year-old patient with prostate cancer (Photograph: ZEPHYR/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY)
MRI scan of a 65-year-old patient with prostate cancer (Photograph: ZEPHYR/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY)

Previous studies had suggested a link between infertility and the risk of developing prostate cancer. However, research focused on the number of children a man had as a guide for fertility returned mixed results.

Dr Thomas Walsh and colleagues from the University of Washington, Seattle, attempted to provide a more accurate study of a potential association.

The researchers assessed 22,562 men that were evaluated for infertility in Californian infertility centres between 1967 and 1998.

They identified 168 cases of prostate cancer that developed in these men. This number was not significantly different from the expected rate.

However, researchers found those identified as infertile were 2.6 times more likely to be diagnosed with high grade prostate cancer, which is more likely to grow and spread quickly.

The authors said it may be appropriate for infertile men to be considered for early prostate cancer screening, given their elevated risk for aggressive disease, if the results are confirmed in other studies.

They added that the results should stimulate research on possible common biological pathways underlying infertility and prostate cancer.

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