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A recent Canadian study has found that having a vasectomy performed doesn’t increase a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer or dying from this condition.

A vasectomy is a common procedure performed as a permanent birth control method and involves obstructing the vas deferens (the duct which conveys sperm from the testicles to the urethra) by blocking these tubes through surgical manipulation. Annually, around 500,000 men in the United States, between the ages of 25 and 49, have this procedure performed. Men who have a vasectomy done worry about whether this procedure will have any negative effects such as affecting their sex life or failure in preventing a pregnancy.

A major concern of vasectomies that occurred was regarding an increased risk of prostate cancer. This was after a large clinical study in 2014 showed an association between vasectomies and a 10% increased risk of developing prostate cancer and a 20% elevated risk of being diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer. Despite these findings, the researchers of the 2014 study admitted that the overall risk of developing prostate cancer was very low in these patients, and even if there was an increased risk of prostate cancer it was more likely to be restricted to cancers that are aggressive, which are relatively rare.

The more recent study

A new study was performed more recently where the primary outcome was to determine the incidence of prostate cancer in the test subjects, and the secondary outcome was to gather information regarding the grading and staging of prostate cancer, as well as its mortality rate. 

The researchers analyzed the data of over 326,500 men aged between 20 and 65 who had a vasectomy done and compared them to men with a similar health status and age range who didn’t have the procedure performed. The researchers then followed up on 50% of the men for just under 11 years. 

The findings

In the study period it was discovered that just over 1,800 men in the vasectomy group and over 1,600 men in the control group had developed prostate cancer. By the end of the study 50 men had died from prostate cancer.

This study determined that men who had vasectomies performed on them had around a 5% increased chance of developing a potentially fatal high-grade prostate cancer, a 4% increased risk of developing an advanced prostate cancer and a 6% elevation in mortality risk.

It's important to note though that these findings were too small to rule out these prostate cancers from occurring as a result of random chance. Other limitations to this study included a lack in data regarding factors such as what type of screening tests for prostate cancer the test subjects underwent, their family history, ejaculation frequency, eating habits and ethnicity.

In summary, the findings of this study don't support an independent association between performing a vasectomy and developing prostate cancer.

Clinical significance

A vasectomy is a relatively safe method of birth control for men to undergo. Although there are some concerns associated with a vasectomy, physicians performing the procedure can put their patients' minds at ease with the fact that the procedure itself will not directly cause a major increase in the risk of developing prostate cancer, especially aggressive ones that can be fatal.

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