Researchers have found that infertile men who did develop prostate cancer were more than two-and-a-half times more likely to develop high-grade or aggressive prostate cancers, which are more likely to grow and spread quickly, than fertile men.
"These results, if confirmed, also suggest that men identified with male factor infertility earlier in life may be considered for prostate cancer screening, given the elevated risk specifically for high-grade disease," write researcher Thomas J. Walsh, MD, of the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, and colleagues in Cancer.
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer in men in the U.S.
Researchers say previous studies on a possible link between male infertility and prostate cancer risk have produced conflicting results, with some showing men who have children have a lower risk of developing the disease and some showing no increased risk. But researchers say the number of children a man has may not accurately reflect his own fertility.
Therefore, in this study, researchers looked at the risk of prostate cancer in a group of 22,262 men who were evaluated for infertility from 1967 to 1998 in 15 California infertility centers. The rates of prostate cancer in men who were found to have male factor infertility were compared to those men who were not found to have infertility.
During the study period, 168 cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed among the men who were evaluated for infertility, which researchers say is not significantly different than the expected rate of prostate cancer (185 cases).
But men who were evaluated for infertility and found to be infertile were 2.6 times more likely to be diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer than men who were evaluated and found not to be infertile.
Researchers say if these results are confirmed by further studies, they could offer new insight on the biological pathways underlying male infertility and prostate cancer.