Men might have a few concerns when they think of undergoing a vasectomy. But there's new evidence that there is no association between having a vasectomy and developing prostate cancer.
"The overall weight of all of the evidence is that vasectomy is unlikely to meaningfully increase risk of any type of prostate cancer," said Dr. Eric Jacobs, a cancer epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society who led the study.
Vasectomies are a long-term approach to birth control. The procedure involves cutting, sealing or blocking the tubes that sperm move along when leaving the testicles, so sperm cannot be released during sex.
Earlier studies have shown that there is a link between prostate cancer and vasectomy but the recent study considers a larger population size. "The strength of this study is the size of the cohort" with fatal prostate cancer, said Dr. Charlotte Bevan, professor of cancer biology at Imperial College London, who was not involved in the research.
Researchers at the American Cancer Society analyzed data from more than 363,000 men -- including 42,000 known to have undergone a vasectomy -- who were participants of the broader ongoing Cancer Prevention Study II, which began in 1982.
All the men were older than 40, the typical age range for men contemplating, and having, a vasectomy. About 7,400 participants died of prostate cancer over the 30-year period of the study.
There was no difference in prostate cancer development between those who did and did not have a vasectomy. "Vasectomy is a quick, inexpensive, long-term method of birth control. ... If there's no increased in risk, nobody should be discouraged," Jacobs said. "We wanted to help inform that decision."
About 10% of middle-age men in the United States have had a vasectomy, said Jacobs. The team hopes the findings alleviate any concerns among men contemplating the procedure.