Vasectomy is a permanent form of birth control, and it’s one of the most effective methods available. But what if you’re worried that having a vasectomy could increase your risk for cancer? I’m sure you’ve heard the rumors: vasectomies cause prostate cancer and other serious health conditions. But is it true?
Well, don’t be! There are a lot of myths in medicine and this is one of them. Here’s what you need to know about this common question, “does vasectomy cause cancer,” especially since the media has fueled a lot of speculation.
Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat — Vasectomies do not cause cancer!
In fact, a vasectomy is a safe and effective procedure that can protect the long-term health of you and your partners by preventing you from passing on genetic disorders or diseases to your children or your partner from having complications from an unwanted pregnancy. Plus, a vasectomy let’s you enjoy worry-free sex with a minimal risk (1/2500) of an oops pregnancy.
It’s important to note that if you are in good health overall and your health risks are low, then your risk for side effects is also low. In general, vasectomies have few complications when they’re performed by experts (urologists) with surgical training. Here at Pazona MD in Nashville we perform over 100 no-needle, no-scalpel vasectomies a month with a quick recovery.
Vasectomy and prostate cancer in men.
When it comes to men and prostate cancer, there is no evidence linking vasectomy to increased risk of prostate cancer or any other type of cancers in men.
In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers examined 1.6 million men who had undergone vasectomies, and compared them to 1.3 million men who had not undergone vasectomy. They found no association between having a vasectomy and prostate cancer risk, or any other type of cancer risk.
A study done by the Harvard Medical School followed over 6,000 men for 15 years and found that those who had undergone a vasectomy were actually less likely to get prostate cancer than men who hadn’t had one (Harvard Health Publications, 2000). The same conclusion was drawn from other studies as well (University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics).
To further the evidence, the World Health Organization (WHO), which found no association between vasectomy and prostate cancer. In fact, WHO states that they “we are unaware of any scientific evidence linking vasectomies to an increased risk of other types of cancers.”
Vasectomy and testicular cancer in men.
Good news: there is no link between vasectomy and testicular cancer. In fact, the risk of being diagnosed with testicular cancer is lower in men who have had a vasectomy versus those who haven’t undergone this procedure at all—it’s just not very common as an adverse event associated with vasectomies (0–1%).
A study of over 300 men with testicular cancer and over 600 men without it found that there was no significant difference in the risk of testicular cancer among men with and without a history of vasectomy. The American Cancer Society says no evidence links vasectomy to testicular cancer or any other type of cancer.
However, it’s still important to perform monthly self-testicular exams after your vasectomy to make sure you don’t notice any new lumps or bumps in your testicle and that you’re staying healthy!
What about the build of sperm? Won’t this cause cancer or other problems?
To understand how vasectomy could theoretically increase the risk of cancer, we need to first talk about sperms and their role in cancer. Sperms are made in one place: the testicles. Then they travel through the epididymis, vas deferens and ultimately into the seminal vesicles where they mix with the semen. The sperm are the swimmers, and they’re headed to the swimming pool.
They’re stored inside of the seminal vesicles until they are ejaculated. This can take anywhere from a few hours to more than a week depending on how much sex you have during that time period.
What happens when you have a vasectomy? Well first off – no sperms will travel through those tubes anymore! This means there will be no chance for anyone getting pregnant because there won’t be any sperm present at all.
Sperm doesn’t cause cancer and doesn’t have any impact on your risk of developing cancer. Sperm is a normal part of your body, so you shouldn’t worry about it having an impact on your health later in life. It’s also not dangerous or harmful to have sperm inside you. There’s no evidence that sperm causes cancer—and even if it did, it would still be less likely than other things we put into our bodies all the time (like alcohol).
Why would people suggest that a vasectomy causes cancer?
Although there’s plenty of false information in the medical world, most of it starts with some evidence. In the matter of vasectomy causing cancer, the mistake was misinterpreting correlation as causation. Huh? Let me explain.
Correlation means that two outcomes are linked or associated with each other. For example, using name brand toothpaste is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Does Colgate cause Alzheimer’s? Of course not. But, if you can afford name brand toothpaste, then you are more likely to have medical insurance and regularly go to the doctor. If you go to the doctor as your memory starts declining, they will likely diagnose you with Alzheimer’s.
Do you know who isn’t being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s? Your crazy uncle who lives off the grid, doesn’t go to the doctor because “he ain’t sick” and also doesn’t brush his teeth at all. Yuck.
This is very similar to the link between vasectomy and prostate cancer. In order to be diagnosed with prostate cancer you need to:
- Go to the doctor and have a PSA blood test.
- Get referred to a urologist if the PSA blood test is elevated.
- Have a prostate biopsy diagnosing prostate cancer.
Who’s most likely to go to a urologist for a prostate biopsy? The same guy who went to urologist 20-30 years earlier for a vasectomy. Correlation not causation.
Conclusion: A vasectomy does NOT cause cancer.
Medical myths can be misleading, harmful, expensive and time consuming. They can also be embarrassing, dangerous or life-threatening. So why do people believe them? We live in the era of Dr. Google and soon to be Dr. ChatGPT. At the tip of our fingers is all the medical information in the world. Unfortunately, the myths get mixed up wit the facts.
Also, a lot of the time it’s because previous generations have passed their suspicions on to the next generation without ever bothering to check if they are actually true. Some myths are based on a grain of truth—but this tiny bit does not make them any less dangerous or damaging than those that are completely fabricated out of thin air.
As you can see, there is no link between vasectomies and cancer. Men who have had a vasectomy should not worry about developing prostate cancer or testicular cancer because the studies showed no connection between these two conditions. If you are considering having a vasectomy but are worried about it causing cancer, don’t let this myth influence your decision!