A man’s anogenital distance may provide a clue to his risk for prostate cancer (PCa), according to researchers.

In a study of 60 PCa patients and 52 urological controls, the distance from anus to upper penis was approximately 5 mm shorter in patients than controls, investigators reported online in BJU International. Each 5 mm increment in that distance was associated with a significant 17% decreased risk of PCa in adjusted analyses.

Additionally, the researchers looked at anogenital distance as measured from anus to scrotum, but this distance was not associated with PCa risk.

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The study, led by Gemma Castano-Vinyals, MD, of the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona, Spain, is the first to correlate anogenital measurements in adults in relation to the risk of cancer.

Androgens are critical for the development of the male reproductive system during gestation and they stimulate the growth of the perineal region in male offspring, the researchers observed. They explained that anogenital distance “is a sexually dimorphic phenotype that tracks through life, with men having longer anogenital distances than women.”

 “The present study showed that a phenotype reflecting normal in utero sexual development in men is associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer,” the authors concluded.