Data suggest possible link between male infertility, somatic cancers

May 21, 2008

Results of a study based on data from approximately 43,400 men show risks of developing melanoma and prostate cancer are increased among those with a diagnosis of male factor infertility, reported researchers from the University of California, San Francisco.

Results of a study based on data from approximately 43,400 men show risks of developing melanoma and prostate cancer areincreased among those with a diagnosis of male factor infertility, reported researchers from the University of California, SanFrancisco.

The study was based on a cohort of infertile couples, including men with and without male factor infertility. Rates ofsubsequent cancer development among the male partners were determined through linkage with the Surveillance, Epidemiology, andEnd Results cancer registries in California.

Compared to an age-matched sample of men from the general population, the men from couples with infertility had a lower rateof all cancers, but were more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer and melanoma. A time-to-disease analysis wasperformed to investigate whether male factor infertility in itself was a cancer risk factor. Its results showed that compared tomen in the cohort without male factor infertility, those carrying the diagnosis were 1.5 times more likely to develop anycancer and 1.8 times more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Although there was a trend for male factor infertilitybeing a risk factor for melanoma, this finding did not reach statistical significance.

"Our findings are very provocative, but the research is very preliminary and requires confirmation in other cohorts ofAmerican men," said first author Thomas J. Walsh, MD, who worked on the study withPaul Turek, MD, and colleagues. "In addition, studies are needed to determine whether the association might be explained byrisk factors common to both infertility and cancer.

"While the results indicate men diagnosed with male factor infertility have an increased relative risk of certainmalignancies, the absolute risk of these cancers is still very low. Therefore, this research does not provide a basis fortelling men diagnosed with male factor infertility that they need to be worried about developing cancer later in life."