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Vasectomy, prostate cancer: unexplained link.

Vasectomy, prostate cancer: Unexplained link

Two epidemiologic surveys have turned up a surprising association between vasectomy and the risk of prostate cancer. The researchers caution, however, that the findings do not necessarily indicate a causal connection.

Both reports appear in the December 1990 AMERICAN, JOURNAL OF EPIDEMIOLOGY. In one, Lynn Rosenberg of the Boston University School of Public Health in Brookline, Mass., and her colleagues describe their restrospective survey of vasectomy histories among 220 men with prostate cancer and 1,531 controls hospitalized for cancer or other medical conditions. The study uncovered a statistical link between vasectomy and prostate cancer, prompting speculation that men who undergo this common sterilization procedure might face an increased risk of prostate cancer later in life.

Working separately, Curtis J. Mettlin and his colleagues at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., studied 614 men with prostate cancer and 2,588 men hospitalized with other types of cancer. Men who reported a history of vasectomy experienced approximately double the incidence of prostate cancer, the team found.

Rosenberg warns against jumping to the conclusion that vasectomy causes prostate cancer, noting that the link could be a statistical fluke. According to Stuart S. Howards of the American Urological Association in Baltimore, previous studies have failed to uncover any link between prostate cancer and vasectomy. However, Howards cautions that both new studies "certainly are cause for discussion, concern and further research." Both he and Rosenberg stress that the causes of prostate cancer remain poorly understood. They suggest that the new findings may accelerate research aimed at finding the origins of the disease, which kills about 30,000 men in the United States each year.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 12, 1991
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