Infertile Men at Greater Risk of High-Grade Prostate Cancer

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Could infertility in men be a risk factor for prostate cancer? Results of a recent study indicate an association between infertility and prostate cancer. The findings suggest that it may be wise to screen men who are infertile for the possibility of prostate cancer, as researchers found a greater risk of high-grade prostate cancer among this population of men.

Prostate cancer is graded according to a system called the Gleason score. A Gleason score of 6 is a low-grade cancer, 7 is a medium-grade, and scores of 8, 9, or 10 are high-grade cancers. High-grade prostate cancers are much more likely to spread (metastasize) than a low-grade cancer and have a higher rate of mortality.

A research team from the University of Washington in Seattle analyzed the risk of prostate cancer among 22,562 men who had been evaluated for infertility at 15 fertility centers in California over a 30-year period. The incidence of prostate cancer found in these men was compared with the incidence in men of similar age and geographic location from the general population.

A total of 168 men from the fertility centers developed prostate cancer, which is close to the expected rate of 185 cases. Therefore, it appears that men evaluated for infertility have no greater risk of developing prostate cancer than men in the general population. However, men who were infertile were 2.6 times more likely to be diagnosed with high-grade prostate cancer than men who were evaluated but were not infertile.

The authors believe if these results, which were published in the online journal Cancer, are supported by subsequent studies, men who are infertile perhaps should consider early prostate cancer screening. Men who have been found to be infertile may want to consult with their physician about early cancer screening.


Walsh TJ et al. Increased risk of high grade prostate cancer among infertile men. Cancer 2010 May 1; 116(9): 2140-47