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A vasectomy is a simple, quick, cost-effective and popular permanent birth control method. Could it also increase a man's risk of prostate cancer? A new study reveals that you might want to think twice before getting the snip.

Are you and your partner very sure you're done having children? You might be thinking about permanent birth control options. Taking permanent measures ensures you never have to think about contraception ever again, and that you have excellent — though never quite 100 percent — odds of not conceiving.

What's the best permanent birth control method? Chances are that the female half of a couple considering this question has already been on some form of hormonal birth control, such as the pill, for many years. Shouldn't the man play his part now? Besides, a vasectomy is a cheaper and simpler procedure than a tubal ligation. To many couples, it makes sense for the man to get "snipped". Around 15 percent of men in the United States decide to have the procedure. 

Prostate Cancer Risk Bigger In Post-Vasectomy Men

Are there any risks involved with a vasectomy, which is a quick and easy procedure, though? According to a new study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, MA, there are some risks you probably never thought of before: a small increased risk of prostate cancer and a more significant increased risk of advanced prostate cancer. 

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, analyzed data on 49,405 US men. As participants of the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, the men were followed between 1986 and 2010. Their ages at the beginning of the study were between 40 and 75. Over the course of the study, 6,023 of the men were diagnosed with prostate cancer. A total of 811 ended up dying from the disease, which is a major cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. One in four study participants had a vasectomy.

Co-author Lorelei Mucci, who is an associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, explained: "This study follows our initial publication on vasectomy and prostate cancer in 1993, with 19 additional years of follow-up and tenfold greater number of cases."

She added: "The results support the hypothesis that vasectomy is associated with an increased risk of advanced or lethal prostate cancer."

How Big Is The Risk?

The study team found that men who had undergone a vasectomy procedure had a 10 percent overall increased risk of prostate cancer. Even more concerning was the fact that they found vasectomy was associated with a more significant increased risk of the more aggressive, deadly forms of prostate cancer. Men who had undergone a vasectomy were found to have a 19 percent higher risk of advanced prostate cancer, and a 20 percent increased risk of lethal prostate cancer
 
The increased risk was, the researchers said, clear among men who had regular PSA tests as well. This shows that the increased risk is not due to diagnostic bias. A subgroup of participating men that did have regular PSA tests was found to have a 56 percent increased risk.

See Also: Complications following Vasectomy

Of course, an significantly increased risk of prostate cancer still doesn't mean that men who had a vasectomy have a high absolute risk of developing the disease. It is probably, however, something men who are considering getting "the snip" will want to take into account before they go ahead with the procedure. 

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