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Vasectomy Risks and Benefits

What every man should know

Do vasectomies increase the risk of prostate cancer and dementia? continued...

The study caused some concern because there is a plausible, if unlikely, mechanism for a vasectomy to cause brain damage. Sperm normally doesn’t come in contact with the bloodstream, but antibodies to sperm form in the blood of about two-thirds of men who get vasectomies. (The sperm leaks into the normal tissue of the body after the vas is cut.) The theory put forward by the Northwestern study is that antibodies to sperm, which happen to have some proteins in common with brain cells, might cause an autoimmune attack on the brain.

But the study was small and hasn’t been replicated, so it’s too early to make much of it. For the time being, according to both Sokal and Labrecque, dementia is a hypothetical risk of vasectomy, though one that requires further research.

How effective are vasectomy reversals?

More importantly, both Sokal and Labrecque stress that it’s vital not to expect that a vasectomy can be undone. Labrecque says that he can successfully perform a vasectomy reversalabout half the time, but there are no guarantees.

“Before I give you a vasectomy,” says Labrecque, “you must be sure you don’t want kids anymore for the rest of your life, no matter what your personal situation is.”

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Reviewed on June 01, 2007

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