What Causes Testicular Cancer?

Medically Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on November 13, 2022
2 min read

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with testicular cancer, a natural question you may ask is: “What caused this?”

And the answer is doctors don't know for sure why a man may get it. But they have been able to find some links to other conditions.

There is one thing they do know: Testicular cancer is among the most treatable cancers, even in an advanced stage. It is rarely life-threatening.

Even if it has spread to nearby organs, you have an excellent chance of long-term survival.

Cancer can occur in many areas of the body, including the sexual organs.

Men have two testicles, sometimes called testes. They are one of many glands in the body. Their job is to make male hormones and sperm. They hang beneath and behind a man's penis in a pouch of skin called the scrotum.

Each testicle is connected to what’s called the spermatic cord. It’s made up of a sperm duct, nerves, and blood vessels.

Testicular cancer may spread slowly or quickly. It can go to nearby lymph nodes, the lungs, the liver, bones, and rarely the brain.

Researchers have found several things that seem to increase a man’s chances of getting this kind of cancer. They include:

Undescended testicle: Testicular cancer happens more often in men who were born with a condition called cryptorchidism.

Early in a pregnancy, the testes form in the male baby’s lower belly. Not too long before birth, they should “drop” down into the scrotum. But for about 3 or 4 out of 100 newborns, this doesn’t happen. And that rate goes much higher if the baby is born early.  

Family history: It may also run through the generations, from parent to child. 

Other disorders: Men with the genetic disorder Down syndrome have a higher chance of getting it.

Previous diagnosis: If you’ve already been cured of cancer in one testicle, you have a 4% chance of getting it again in the other one.

Fertility problems: If you have trouble making a woman pregnant, you are more likely to be diagnosed with testicular cancer. You should ask your doctor to screen you.

HIV infection: The virus that causes AIDS has been linked with it.

Issues before birth: Conditions related to your mother’s pregnancy may play a role as well. They include abnormal bleeding and estrogen, or hormone, therapy.

If you find a lump in your testicle, go to a doctor so they can check it.