Cancer of the Testis
What should people know about cancer of the testis?
The testes are smooth, oval-shaped male sex glands located behind the penis in a pouch of skin called the scrotum. They produce male hormones and, after sexual maturity, sperm.
Cancer of the testis, or testicular cancer, is relatively rare. It is highly treatable and very often can be cured.
Each year in New York State almost 600 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer, and about 20 men die from this disease.
Who gets cancer of the testis?
Cancer of the testis is the most common cancer among White males aged 20 to 34 years. It is the second most common cancer among White males aged 15 to 19 years and 35 to 39 years.
The incidence of testicular cancer is six times higher among White men than among Black men. Testicular cancer occurs less frequently among Hispanic, Native American and Asian men than among Whites, but more frequently than among Blacks.
Cancer of the testis occurs more frequently in men with high income and education levels. Men who work as professionals and skilled non-manual (e.g., managers, administrative staff, technical support) workers have twice the risk of getting testicular cancer as blue-collar workers.
What factors increase risk for developing cancer of the testis?
At this time, the causes of testicular cancer are not well understood. However, scientists agree that certain factors increase a person's risk of developing this disease. These risk factors include:
- Medical conditions. Testicular cancer occurs more often in men with certain medical conditions, including undescended testis.
- Family history and genetics. Men who have a father or brother with testicular cancer are at greater risk of developing the disease. Men with certain genetic conditions, such as Down syndrome or Klinefelter's syndrome, are also at higher risk.
- Occupation. Employment in certain industries, including the military, aviation, crude petroleum and natural gas, printing, metal working and leather finishing industries, has been associated with increased risk of cancer of the testis.
What other risk factors for testicular cancer are scientists studying?
Since testicular cancer occurs relatively early in life, scientists are studying factors around or before the time of a man's birth that may be related to this disease. These include birth weight and characteristics of the mother during pregnancy, including age, number of previous pregnancies, levels of natural hormones and any hormones she may have taken.
Some studies have shown that taller men have a greater risk of testicular cancers. Studies have also shown that men with an earlier age at puberty are at increased risk of getting testicular cancer.
Scientists are also studying the possible role of substances that may affect a man's hormone balance (endocrine disrupters). These include the artificial estrogen diethylstilbestrol (DES), pesticides such as DDT, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
Some early studies suggested that injury to the testes increases the risk of testicular cancer. However, it is now believed that these findings arose because men who have developed testicular cancer are more likely to remember injuries, or because the injury drew attention to an existing cancer.
Is the number of men with testicular cancer increasing?
The incidence of testicular cancer has nearly doubled in the past 30 years. Most of the increase is among young men ages 15-44. Causes for the increase are not known.
What can I do to reduce my chances of getting testicular cancer?
Most of the risk factors for testicular cancer, like age, race and conditions occurring at or before birth, are out of a person's control. However, there are some things a man can do to help reduce the risk of getting testicular cancer:
- Be aware of your family history and discuss any concerns with your health care provider.
- Be aware of workplace health and safety rules and follow them.
- Be aware of the symptoms of testicular cancer. Although testicular cancer can usually be cured at any stage, finding it early may make it easier to treat.
How else can I reduce my risk for cancer?
The following may help reduce the risk of developing cancer:
- Exercise regularly.
- Choose a healthy diet to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Eat more vegetables, fruits and whole grains and eat less red and processed (e.g., bacon, sausage, luncheon meat, hot dogs) meats. These actions may reduce the risk of developing many types of cancer as well as other diseases.
- Do not smoke. If you currently smoke, quit. Avoid exposure to second hand smoke. For more information on quitting smoking, visit the NYS Smoker's Quitline at www.nysmokefree.com or call 1-866-NY-QUITS.
- Discuss the risks and benefits of medical imaging, such as CT scans, with your health care provider to avoid unnecessary exposure to ionizing radiation. This is particularly important for children.
- Talk with your health care provider about recommended cancer screenings.