Testicular Cancer

Your ideas about causes of testicular cancer

It is not known exactly what causes testicular cancer, but the number of men who develop this form of cancer is increasing, and research is in progress to try to find out more about possible causes.

It is known that testicular cancer is more common in men who have had an undescended testicle (in the unborn child the testicles develop inside the abdomen and later descend into the scrotal sac). Many of the men interviewed here were aware of this, but didn't suggest this as the reason for their own cancers.

Men with a father or brother who have had testicular cancer also have a slightly higher risk of developing the disease. Some men were convinced that genes had had a part to play in the development of their cancer, though they recognised that cancer is probably caused by combination of many factors.

•    A small percentage (3–4%) of men who’ve previously been treated for testicular cancer will go on to develop a cancer in the other testicle.
 
•    Testicular cancer is more common in white men than African-Caribbean or Asian men. It occurs more commonly in wealthier social groups. The reasons for this are not known.
 
•    Men with carcinoma in situ (CIS) in the testes (an early form of cancer) are also more likely to develop invasive carcinoma the most common form of testicular cancer. Carcinoma in situ is when there are abnormal cells in the testicle. These tend to be discovered when men have a biopsy of the testicle when investigating infertility problems. The testicle with CIS is usually removed.

There is no research evidence to link vasectomies to testicular cancer but some men suggested that their illness might have been due to a previous vasectomy.

Although no link has been found between injury and testicular cancer, many men said that they had considered the idea that knocks sustained either in car or sporting accidents, horseback riding, or cycling were possible causes of their cancer.

There is no evidence that testicular cancer is caused by any other aspect of lifestyle, such as diet or smoking, but many men thought that processed food or a contaminated water supply might be partly to blame for the increase in testicular cancer.

Some men suggested that female hormones (oestrogen) in the food chain or the water supply might be the cause of the problem, and one man blamed lifestyle; a combination of an unhealthy diet, long, stressful hours at work, and a mobile phone he kept in his pocket. Another man was concerned about the effects of dairy food.

Although there is no medical evidence that chemicals or pesticides cause testicular cancer, many men thought that these substances might account for the rising incidence in the disease. Men mentioned industrial pollution; exposure to chemicals, oily rags, pesticides used in agriculture, and passive smoking as possible factors to consider.

Men suggested other factors that they thought might trigger testicular cancer. For example, men mentioned mumps, a previous hernia and stress.

Some men suggested that their cancer was 'totally random', or that it was partly due to 'chance', 'bloody bad luck', 'one of those things', or 'part of nature'. 

Some men, though happy to move on and forget the disease, still wanted to know why they in particular had developed testicular cancer.

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Last reviewed December 2014.
Last updated October 2011.
 

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