Do You Need to Worry About Prostate Cancer After a Vasectomy?
A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology noted a connection between vasectomies and prostate cancer. This caused some concern for men about the safety of the procedure. But, urologist and Virtua North director of robotic surgery, Douglas Berkman, MD, says there’s no cause for alarm.
“This is just one more thing linked to vasectomies,” explains Dr. Berkman. “In the past, studies linked vasectomies to cardiovascular disease and dementia.” Ultimately, the medical community debunked both of those theories as well.
“This research is something that we take seriously,” he adds. “It was a big topic of conversation at the last meeting of the American Urological Association. As we looked at the study and examined the data, we found a lot of issues. Many of the cases went as far back as the 1990s. At that time, regular prostate cancer screenings were less common, and the genetic tests for prostate cancer weren’t available yet. When we adjusted for that, the connected cases dropped away.”
When they looked further, they found no biologic explanation. “Instead, it’s likely that those screened already had relationships with urologists because they had vasectomies. This means they were more likely to be aware of the risks of prostate cancer, and more likely to be screened.”
In fact, a vasectomy is one of the most effective birth control options available. Half a million are performed in the U.S. every year, and have been performed safely since the 1950s.
As for why stories like this spread, Dr. Berkman thinks that casual discussions about vasectomies tend to breed misinformation. “Sometimes, it’s because rumors or jokes imply that you’re not as much of a man after having a vasectomy. It’s easy to rib friends, or make a good story of it, but stories have a way of getting away from the facts.”
Dr. Berkman notes: “Men considering vasectomy should speak with a urologist about this and other risks. In reality, most guys don’t ask about risks. They’ve been thinking about the procedure for a while—often since the birth of their last child. They’re more interested in learning about how soon they can return to work and the gym. And of course, they want to know when they can have sex again.”
Updated March 22, 2017