Infertility in men raises risk of testicular cancer

Scientists have alerted the public that poor sperm quality, which affects about one in every 10 men may lead to fertility problems as well as increase risk of developing testicular cancer.

These findings were contained in an article published in ‘The Conversation’ by Aleksander Giwercman, professor of reproductive medicine, Lund University in Sweden and Yvonne Lundberg Giwercman, associate professor in experimental urology at the same university.

According to the researchers, even if the men don’t develop testicular cancer, men with poor sperm quality tend to die younger than men who don’t have fertility problems. Testicular cancer is cancer that develops in the testicles, a part of the male reproductive system. It is not all lumps on the testicles that are tumours and not all tumours are cancer and testicular cancer is the most common malignant disease of young males. Couples who can’t achieve pregnancy usually go to fertility clinics for treatment.

At these clinics, emphasis was usually on deciding whether the couple needs assisted reproduction or not, and, if so, to choose between different methods – such as Invitro-Fertilisation (IVF), Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), a fertility treatment that places sperm directly into the uterus or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), a technique for IVF in which an individual sperm cell is introduced into an egg cell. In most cases, these treatments lead to pregnancy and a live birth.

So, the problem seems to be solved. But the researchers stated that if infertility is an early symptom of an underlying disease in the man, fertility clinics won’t pick it up. According to them, testicular cancer is easy to detect. In men seeking treatment for fertility problems, a simple ultrasound scan of the testes can reveal early cancer, so a life-threatening tumour can be prevented and if, detected, 95 per cent of all cases can be cured. But unfortunately, testicular ultrasound scans are rarely performed at fertility clinics as the focus tends to be on sperm numbers and which method of assisted reproduction to use.

Hence, ultrasound scan could pick up most cases of testicular cancer, they affirmed. According to them, Giwercman and Lundberg Giwercman, testicular cancer was not the only threat to young infertile men’s health, serious health problems, such as metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, high blood sugar and obesity), Type 2 diabetes and loss of bone mass were also much more common conditions among infertile men.

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