Vasectomy is associated with a modest increase in the risk of lethal prostate cancer (PCa), according to researchers.

A team led by Lorelei A. Mucci, ScD, of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, studied 6,023 PCa patients, including 811 lethal cases (death or distant metastases). These patients were among 49,405 U.S. men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study who were aged 40–75 years at baseline in 1986. Vasectomy was associated with a 10% increased risk of PCa overall, a 22% increased risk for high-grade PCa (Gleason 8–10), and a 19% increased risk for lethal PCa, after adjusting for potential confounders, Dr. Mucci and colleagues reported online ahead of print in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

In a subcohort of men receiving regular PSA screening, vasectomy was associated with a 56% increased risk of lethal PCa. Vasectomy was not associated with the risk of localized or low-grade malignancy.

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“The results do not appear to be due to detection bias, and confounding by infections or cancer treatment is unlikely,” the authors concluded.