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An updated study reporting a 20% increased risk of advanced prostate cancer and a 19% increased risk of lethal prostate cancer among men who have had vasectomies generated coverage by the medical and major media, including CBS News and The New York Times, and can be expected to prompt questions from patients. The study, published ahead of print online by the Journal of Clinical Oncology, involved 49,405 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study who were aged 40 to 75 years at baseline in 1986 and were followed for up to 24 years.

The study’s lead author, Mohummad Minhaj Siddiqui, MD, Director of Urologic Robotic Surgery, and Assistant Professor of Surgery-Urology, at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, noted several points that should be communicated to patients:

The 19% increase in lethal prostate cancers among men who had vasectomies is on top of a 1.6% cumulative incidence in the overall population, which translates to a very small increase in absolute risk.

Previous reports have shown conflicting results about a possible link between vasectomy and prostate cancer. The recently updated data strengthens the conclusion that there likely is some kind of association, even if it is small.

The future direction of research is probably best served by trying to figure out what the biologic explanation might be for the association between vasectomy and prostate cancer, he added. ■