Male infertility and prostate cancer could have common causes

Men with fertility problems are statistically more at risk of developing prostate cancer than others, according to a Swedish study which strengthens the hypothesis that these two health problems could have common causes.

The study, published in 2019 by The British Medical Journal, studied Swedish men who first became fathers between 1994 and 2014 and identified those who faced a cancer diagnosis for up to 20 years after that birth.

The two pathologies strongly correlated

They concluded that those who had resorted to assisted reproductive technologies “had a significantly higher risk prostate cancer that those who had become fathers in a natural way“.

Among the latter group, 0.28% were diagnosed with prostate cancer, compared with 0.37% among those who underwent in vitro fertilization and 0.42% among men who received ICSI (injection of a sperm in the egg), or a 30% to 60% risk increase.

This last technique, “used for men with the most severe forms of infertility“(abnormalities of the spermatozoa which prevent them from fertilizing the oocyte), is also associated with an almost doubled risk of early cancer (diagnosed before age 55).

What screening?

The study concludes that this category of men constitutes a population at risk and should benefit from a early detection of prostate cancer and long-term monitoring.

In an editorial accompanying the study, two endocrinology specialists at Imperial College London, however, recall that the value of such screening is discussed because it has not been proven to improve survival rate.

In addition, the overdiagnosis and overtreatment that can result from a positive blood test results in significant changes in quality of life.

The genetic trail

Prostate cancer and male infertility respectively affect approximately 10% and 8% of men in Western societies.

Since these two health problems are often linked to male sex hormones, research on a possible link between the two has already been undertaken. But the weakness of the studies carried out so far (small number of participants, too short follow-up time, etc.) has not made it possible to draw definitive conclusions, underline the authors of the study.

The biological mechanism that could link infertility and prostate cancer “is not yet known” more abnormalities on the Y chromosome could play a role, according to the two researchers at Imperial College.

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