A new US study done at the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine has found that men who have had testicular cancer may be at a higher risk of prostate cancer.
The rate of prostate cancer in men who had previously had testicular cancer was 12.6%, compared to 2.8% for those who had not. They were also five times more likely to develop intermediate or high-risk prostate cancer than men who had not had testicular cancer.
What is testicular cancer?
Unlike cancer of the prostate, testicular cancer – or cancer of the testes – is mostly a younger man’s disease. According to the government’s Better Health Channel, testicular cancer is relatively rare, but is still the second most common cancer in men aged 18-39, with the rate of the disease having grown by 50% in the last 30 years.
Symptoms may include a lump in the testes, a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum, and / or a persistent ache in the affected testicle or in the lower abdomen – although it may present with no symptoms at all. Diagnosis is often done through an ultrasound and blood tests.
Testicular cancer in most cases can be successfully treated. Treatments include surgical removal of the affected testicle, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. If left untreated, testicular cancer may spread to the lymph glands and other organs – most often the lungs.
Risk factors include undescended testes in childhood, a family history of the disease, penile abnormalities, and complications from mumps.
What is the link to prostate cancer?
At this stage if there is a link between the two diseases, the reason for it is unknown. In most cases examined in the study, the men who had had both diseases contracted prostate cancer 30 years after the first diagnosis of testicular cancer – a considerable length of time, especially if a link between the two does exist.
The evidence is not yet conclusive, and it’s clear that more research needs to be carried out. While there haven’t been any recommendations for medical practitioners at this stage, the Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand recommends that men who have had testicular cancer should visit their doctor to discuss having a prostate cancer test.
Reducing the risk
Whether you have had testicular cancer or not, there are some steps you can take that may help to reduce your risk of prostate cancer. These include following a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise and a diet rich in plant foods, and reducing weight, quitting smoking and avoiding excess alcohol.
In any case, if you have had testicular cancer in your younger years, you should consider getting a prostate cancer screening. Your doctor or a urologist in Sydney will be able to help you with this and to provide more information on the disease.