Risk Factors for Testicular Cancer
A risk factor is something that increases your chances of developing cancer.
It is possible to develop testicular cancer with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing testicular cancer. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your health care provider what you can do to reduce your risk.
Risk factors for testicular cancer include the following:
Having one or more undescended testicles, which is called cryptorchidism, is the major risk factor for testicular cancer. Normally, the testes, which are inside the abdomen during gestation, migrate into the scrotum by the time of birth. Occasionally, though, boys are born with testes that are still in the abdomen or in the groin, not having completed their journey to the scrotum. This is called undescended testes.
Cryptorchidism increases your risk by about five times the normal risk. About 80% to 85% of testicular tumors occur in the testicle that has not descended (called the cryptorchid testicle), while 15% to 20% of cancers occur in the other testicle.
It is unclear whether cryptorchidism is a cause of testicular cancer, or whether both cryptorchidism and testicular cancer both result from unknown genetic or environmental factors.
Other medical conditions that can increase your risk of testicular cancer include the following:
Malformations of the genitourinary system, such as:
- Inguinal hernia – a portion of the small intestine protrudes into the scrotum
- Atrophic testicle – a testicle that is smaller in size than normal
- Cancer in the other testicle
- Mumps orchitis – inflammation of the testes caused by the mumps virus; it is not yet clear if this factor is really associated with an increased risk of testicular cancer.
Risk is greatest between the ages of 20 and 35 years. Out of 100,000 men in this age group, between 8 and 14 men will get testicular cancer. There is also a small increase in risk during early childhood. Men over age 75 have a slight increase in risk for lymphoma in the testicles.
If one of your first-degree male relatives (father, brother, son) has had testicular cancer, you are at increased risk for this cancer.
Testicular cancer occurs five times more often in white men than in black men.
Specific Lifestyle Factor
Being of a higher socioeconomic status also puts you at higher risk for testicular cancer.
Holland JF, Frei III E. Neoplasms of the genitourinary tract. In:
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Available at: http://www.nci.nih.gov/cancer_information/ .
Accessed November 30, 2002.
Motzer RJ, Bosl GJ. Testicular cancer. In: Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine , 14th ed. McGraw-Hill; 1998.
Last reviewed February 2003 by
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