Cambridge, Mass. (CBS CONNECTICUT) — Men who have had a vasectomy may be at an increased risk for an advanced, aggressive form of prostate cancer.

A new Harvard study tracked more than 49,400 U.S. men for 24 years and of the 6,023 cases of diagnosed prostate cancer, there were 811 fatal cases, HealthDay reports. Of the 25 percent of the men who had a vasectomy, there was a 10 percent increased risk of developing prostate cancer and a 20 percent higher risk of advanced prostate cancer.

In addition, there was a 19 percent greater risk of fatal prostate cancer for men who had received vasectomies. But vasectomies were not linked with an increased risk of low-grade prostate cancer.

“This study follows our initial publication on vasectomy and prostate cancer in 1993, with 19 additional years of follow-up and tenfold greater number of cases. The results support the hypothesis that vasectomy is associated with an increased risk of advanced or lethal prostate cancer,” study co-author Lorelei Mucci, associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, said in a university release.

An estimated 240,000 Americans are diagnosed with prostate cancer annually, or about 15 percent of men in the U.S., and almost 30,000 die, making it the second-leading cause of cancer death for men, HealthDay reports. Since screening began for prostate cancer, the death rate for the disease has decreased by 45 percent.

“The decision to opt for a vasectomy as a form of birth control is a highly personal one and a man should discuss the risks and benefits with his physician,” study co-author Kathryn Wilson, a research associate in the department of epidemiology, said in the university news release.

Dr. Louis Kavoussi, chairman of urology at North Shore-LIJ Health Systems in New Hyde Park, N.Y. cautioned that “the increased risk is small,” and that further studies will be needed to correlate the data from the retrospective study.

And Dr. Aaron Katz tells HealthDay that men who have had a vasectomy may be diagnosed with cancer at such a rate simply because they are seeing their doctors more often.

“Several studies have looked at the association between vasectomy and prostate cancer. It is well known that men who have had a vasectomy are more likely to be seen more frequently by urologists in follow-up than men who never had a vasectomy, and will undergo more frequent PSA testing,” he said.


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