Infertility among men ups risk to developing cancer: Study

By Randell Suba , Jun 22, 2013 11:32 AM EDT

Men, who're under 30 years of age and have been diagnosed with a condition known as azoospermia, are eight times more prone to have cancer later on in life. A link between the two medical conditions has been established by a new study.

Azoospermia is a form of infertility where no trace of sperm can be measured on a man's ejaculate. In the United States, four million males between 15 and 45 years old are diagnosed as infertile and about 600,000 of this population are azoospermic.

"The thought was that if the testicles don't develop correctly, and they can't produce sperm...the normal pathways get dysregulated, which perhaps leads to cancer," explained Dr. Michael Eisenberg, lead author of the study and director at Stanford Hospital & Clinics' male reproductive medicine and surgery, in an interview with Fox News.

The proponents of the study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility followed 2,238 patients of the Baylor andrology clinic between 1989 and 2009. Among the subjects, with an average age of 35.7 years,  451 were considered azoospermia while 113 were diagnosed with the non-obstructive variant of the condition and the rest had obstructive azoospermia.

According to an article on the Standford School of Medicine website, obstructive azoospermia is due to a blockage in the passageway of sperms from the testes preventing them to reach the ejaculate. The nonobstructive kind of azoospermia is where the testes do not produce enough sperm to get to the ejaculate.

Obstructive azoospermia is often resolved by a microsurgery that restores the proper flow sperms to be ejaculated with the semen. On the other hand, patients with nonobstructive azoospermia have limited options.

The researchers evaluated the data of the subjects for almost seven years. Among the infertile subjects, 29 developed cancer in less than six years.

Those with azoospermic infertility are has a significantly higher risk, about three times, of developing cancer compared to the general population. The nonazoospermic men had a 1.4 times higher risk of developing the dreaded disease.

The kinds of cancer contracted by the subjects range from brain, stomach or prostate cancer. There were also cases of testicular, small intestine, lymphoma, and melanoma.

However, Eisenberg recommend that men consult their doctors as soon as they detect a problem. A larger study is also recommended since the number of subjects in the study was quite limited.

"Men with azoospermia have an increased risk of subsequently developing cancer, suggesting a possible common etiology between azoospermia and cancer development. Additional follow-up of azoospermic men after reproductive efforts end may be warranted," the study concluded.

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