August 07, 2014 16:37 ET

Controversial Study Links Vasectomy to Prostate Cancer

Leading Prostate Surgeon Dr. David Samadi Weighs In on Study

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - Aug 7, 2014) - A new study published last month in The Journal of Clinical Oncology indicates that there may, in some cases, be a link between vasectomies and an increased risk of contracting the most lethal form of prostate cancer. A vasectomy is a surgical procedure for male sterilization, providing a permanent form of birth control. During the procedure, the vasa deferentia are severed, tied and sealed to prevent the release of sperm.

The study is a culmination of 24 years of research released by Harvard School of Public Health. Researchers at Harvard analyzed the data on 49,405 U.S. men who ranged in age from 40 to 75 years in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Of those 12,321 men who had vasectomies -- or 25 percent of study participants -- researchers discovered 6,023 cases of prostate cancer from 1986-2010. Among those cases, 811 were lethal. World-renowned robotic prostate surgeon David B. Samadi, MD, Chairman of Urology and Chief of Robotic Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, says that this is just another reminder that early detection and regular screenings for prostate cancer are imperative.

"Typically, men should get screened annually for prostate cancer starting at age 50. This screening includes two exams that should be performed concurrently, the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test and the Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)," said Dr. Samadi. "However, men who have one or more risk factors should be screened at an earlier age, 40-45 years old."

Although the risk of getting prostate cancer increases with age -- most cases occur in men after age 65 -- genetics, ethnicity and the environment can all play a role. Men with a father or brother who has prostate cancer are twice as likely to get the disease. Furthermore, African-Americans, veterans exposed to Agent Orange and obese men are also at increased risk.

While previous studies have surmised a connection between vasectomies and prostate cancer, many experts remain skeptical of any correlation. In fact, some dismiss the notion altogether and believe that men with vasectomies are simply diagnosed more often because they receive more medical attention. Other experts have also attributed the increased prostate cancer risk to immunological changes, abnormal cell growth and/or hormonal imbalances following a vasectomy.

Admittedly, the study's revelation that men with vasectomies are 20 percent more likely to develop lethal prostate cancer is alarming, but many experts feel that a definitive causal relationship is still inconclusive and would not suggest ruling out the procedure. "Every man has to weigh his options, discuss his concerns with his doctor and decide whether a vasectomy is right for him. Early detection of prostate cancer is key to effectively reducing one's risk and treating this silent killer. If men follow the recommended screening guidelines for prostate cancer and see their doctor every year, many can live long, healthy lives," concluded Dr. Samadi.

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