Does Vasectomy Raise Prostate Cancer Risk?

Q. I’ve heard that men who have had a vasectomy are at increased risk for prostate cancer. Is that true?

A. Past research on the question of whether this common form of contraception increases the risk of prostate cancer has yielded conflicting results. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology provides important clarification.

Researchers looked at health data from nearly 50,000 men, ranging in age from 40 to 75 years, who were enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. At the start of the study, which began in 1986, just over 12,000 of the men had undergone a vasectomy. Over a 24-year follow-up period, about 6,000 of the men developed prostate cancer.

Overall, vasectomy was associated with a small (10 percent) increased risk of prostate cancer compared with no vasectomy. Although vasectomy was not associated with an increased risk of low-grade or localized disease, men who had undergone the procedure were 22 percent more likely to have high-grade (Gleason score 8 to 10) prostate cancer and were 19 percent more likely to have lethal prostate cancer.

Still, the absolute risk of developing lethal prostate cancer was low, affecting 16 of every 1,000 men who’d had a vasectomy.

These new results don’t mean that men should rule out vasectomy as a form of birth control; however, the findings bear consideration during the decision-making proces