March 16, 2009 -- Question: How does having a vasectomy affect the risk of developing prostate cancer?
Answer: The situation with vasectomy is very similar to the situation with sexually transmitted infections. If you have a vasectomy, you have to go to a urologist, and when you're there with the urologist, he's probably going to do an exam on you or test you for prostate cancer, particularly if you're older than the age of 40.
So any man who's had a vasectomy has had a greater opportunity for prostate cancer to be detected. There've been a number of studies that have looked at vasectomy and the risk of prostate cancer and they've tended to show a small increase in risk, about 40 percent, in men who've had a vasectomy compared to men who have not had a vasectomy.
But a lot of those studies were small and didn't carefully control for the increased opportunity of having a cancer detected that men have when they go to the urologist to have a vasectomy.
Interestingly there's been a new study, a fairly recent study, that has also shown that men who have a vasectomy have an increased risk of prostate cancer but it seems that it's only increased for the risk of developing a low grade, a relatively non-aggressive, prostate cancer.
So this seems to go along with the idea that having a vasectomy is associated with a greater opportunity for prostate cancer to be identified. So if you're considering having a vasectomy, I don't think you should avoid it because you're afraid it will give you prostate cancer. It's something you should discuss with your physician so that you're comfortable that you understand the balance of evidence about any association between vasectomy and prostate cancer.