Infertile men may be more likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer, according to US researchers. But The Prostate Cancer Charity warns more research is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn.
The researchers looked at data routinely collected between 1967 and 1998 by 15 Californian infertile clinics from about 22,562 men. The 4,500 men confirmed as infertile were 2.6 times more likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer than men found to be fertile. If their results are confirmed by other studies, infertile men may be suitable for early prostate cancer screening, according to Dr Thomas Walsh, from the University of Washington in Seattle, US, and his team.
But only 19 infertile men and 16 men in the control group were diagnosed with the aggressive form of the cancer. Dr Helen Rippon, head of research management at The Prostate Cancer Charity, told The Telegraph this makes the study hard to interpret.
'Being able to identify early and with confidence men who are at risk from a high grade, potentially life-threatening prostate tumour from those who are likely to develop a slow growing form of the disease is one of the most important questions facing prostate cancer research today', she said. 'The findings of this research offer little practical advice to men wishing to reduce their risk of the disease. The reported link between male infertility and a raised risk of higher grade prostate cancer is based on a very small number of men'.
'With such small numbers of men affected, it is difficult to draw any firm conclusions about whether the suggested link does exist'.
'This potential new risk factor would need to be backed up by further, large scale studies before any recommendations can be made about targeting early screening for prostate cancer at men with fertility problems'.
Each year around 35,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK and 10,000 die from the disease, The Telegraph reports.