A Canadian health survey of data ranging from 1994 to 2012 found no credible links between vasectomies and the risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Earlier research, while extensive, has been mixed about the risk of prostate cancer associated with vasectomies.

Proven to be safe and effective

The survey enlisted a whopping 326,607 men aged 20 to 65 who had undergone vasectomy, and are matched 1:1 (within two years) to men who did not undergo the procedure for vasectomy. The result clarifies years of mixed clinical data surrounding the procedure.

Lead researcher Madhur Nayan from the University of Toronto says, “Our study involving a large number of individuals followed for many years found no increased prostate cancer risk.”

He added that they “… were able to control for some of the differences between men undergoing vasectomy and those not (e.g. visits to a physician) - these differences could have explained why in other studies men undergoing vasectomy were found to be at increased risk for prostate cancer.

“We feel our findings reflect an accurate assessment of the risk of prostate cancer after vasectomy.”

Benefits outweigh risks

They study concluded that men with vasectomies were about 5% more likely to contract lethal prostate cancer, four percent more likely to be diagnosed with advanced tumours, altogether with a six percent increase in mortality. Having said this, the results were statistically inconclusive.

It is perhaps heartening to note that there are massive advancements in the treatment for prostate cancer – one such treatment provided a 34% reduction in mortality risk.

However, it must be noted that the researchers still lack several pieces of information that may result in a more robust conclusion. One limitation of the study was that researchers lacked data on the type of prostate cancer screening tests (which might influence diagnosis rate), family history, ethnicity, eating habits, and ejaculation frequency.

The researchers concluded, “...even if there is an increased risk of prostate cancer associated with vasectomy, it is likely restricted to aggressive prostate cancer, which is relatively rare, and the increased risk is very modest.” They emphasised that the benefits of vasectomy for any individual and couple may often outweigh these risks.

Effective without any doubt

While vasectomy is certainly not the primary form of birth control for most couples in the US, it is estimated that 1% of men aged 25 to 49 have the procedure each year, adding up to around 500,000 vasectomies annually, according to a 2012 research review.

In the UK and Canada, it is estimated that 20% to 25% of couples choose vasectomy for its ease and effectiveness. There are no known statistics for Singapore and Malaysia.

However, with these recent results, it is now more hopeful that many more males can utilise this method with a piece of mind. This is especially since vasectomy is one of the most effective forms of long-term birth control and failure rates are exceedingly low – near term at 0.3% to 9%; and long terms rates of 0.04% to 0.08%.

Also, it should be emphasised that such a procedure should be reserved for couples who do not wish to procreate any more – the rate is estimated to be as low as 55% for a reversal done in 10 years, and 25% for a reversal done after 10 years. MIMS

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