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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.

 

Says that although a doctor said that an undescended testicle might cause testicular cancer he...

Says that although a doctor said that an undescended testicle might cause testicular cancer he...

Age at interview: 40
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 37
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Do you ever think about what might have caused it, or what causes it?

I've heard several different, one of the doctors said an undescended testicle may have caused it, that tends to be the case with a lot of men. If in childhood you have an undescended testicle and they have to do an operation for that, but, no, no reason whatsoever, I've certainly got no family history. Nobody in my family has had any form of cancer at all. My father's 90, he's never had cancer in any way, he's quite healthy. It was totally random; it really was totally random.

Men with a father or brother who have had testicular cancer or and an undescended testicle also have a 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.

•    Men who’ve previously been treated for testicular cancer are between 4-12 times more likely to go on to develop it in the other testicle (NHS Choices June 2016). 
 
•    Testicular cancer is also 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.
 

Thinks that his testicular cancer may have been caused by a vasectomy or by microwaves.

Thinks that his testicular cancer may have been caused by a vasectomy or by microwaves.

Age at interview: 53
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 43
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Do you ever think about what might have caused the problem?

Yeah you know well I'm not actually sure it wasn't the vasectomy er because when I had the vasectomy that was about the 80s and I think everybody was having them, we were sort of queuing up like at the dentists. And so there's, I'm not sure, I've read things since that there's a correlation between the two things.

Between what two things?

Having a vasectomy and having testicular cancer. And I thought well that seems to fit in my case you know. The other thing is I did used to work on radar at one time and er there's a lot of microwaves and stuff like that floating about, so I might have got in the way of some of them.

 

Says that doctors have told him that there is no link between vasectomy and testicular cancer but...

Says that doctors have told him that there is no link between vasectomy and testicular cancer but...

Age at interview: 42
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 42
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Do you ever think about what might have caused it, has that ever crossed your mind?

The only thing that crossed my mind, 'prior to the vasectomy I think there had been a study which had suggested that there was may be an increased risk of testicular cancer following vasectomy and I remember reading that and being a bit concerned at the time. But I was more concerned about an increase in family so I guess so that took priority. It seemed to be being discounted as not being valid research and whenever I've raised it with the surgeon prior to the surgery, whether that could've been a factor, or with the oncologist after, they've both immediately said that it wasn't any, you know, there's no proven links. Whether that's everyone just sort of sticking together in the medical world or what, I don't know. I haven't looked on the Internet or anywhere for vasectomy to see if they're still suggesting there's a link. But other than that, I had you know the usual sort of knocks as a child I guess, one sticks in my mind, you know, a particularly bad knock with a cricket ball. They're probably the only 2 things that I've may be thought about. But again, I'm told there's no linkage between you know a physical blow and developing the cancer.

Although no link has been found between injury and testicular cancer, many men we interviewed 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.

 

Suggests that his cancer may have been caused by an accident he had while playing football.

Suggests that his cancer may have been caused by an accident he had while playing football.

Age at interview: 51
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 23
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Why, why did it happen? There was a feeling that, I'd had an accident about three or four weeks before, playing football, and I actually straddled the goal post. It was painful but I never had any problems. Then I think it was probably six to eight weeks later this lump appeared. It could've been that but nobody ever said it was the cause, that's what caused it.
 

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 we spoke to 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.

 

Suggests that female hormones in the food chain may be a reason for the rising incidence of...

Suggests that female hormones in the food chain may be a reason for the rising incidence of...

Age at interview: 32
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 27
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Do you ever think about causation or anything like that?

No, again it's just through delving into information myself where I can find it. One of the causes that has been recognised is whenever you're younger, children who have an undescended testicle are more prone to testicular cancer in the long run. Now in speaking to my parents they can't remember and I certainly can't remember if that was ever the case with me. So I think they would've remembered, so I don't think you know that that was the cause of mine. Other causes; you can ask one specialist who'll have an opinion and another specialist will have completely the opposite opinion. But from looking again on the Internet what some Internet sites are suggesting is that the food chain nowadays and the processed food, there is so many female hormones in the food chain that they think that this is having an effect on the increased rise of testicular cancer among men. Again those are from mostly American websites who tend to be a little bit more diverse in their thinking. 

 

Suggests that an unhealthy lifestyle is probably the main cause of testicular cancer.

Suggests that an unhealthy lifestyle is probably the main cause of testicular cancer.

Age at interview: 30
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 27
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Do you ever think about causation and what might have caused all this?

I have thought about it a lot. I used to work with a laptop computer a lot but talking to people who deal with computers and electronics, they felt that the electric fields that might be generated from it certainly isn't strong enough to, to cause testicular cancer. I had started using a mobile phone within probably a year or so of having a cancer and so I thought well maybe that could be it as well. You know within a year of using it here I am I had cancer. So, but obviously the one thing I did do is probably have the mobile phone in my pocket most of the time. So you never know it could be, it could be something from that. 

It could be food. I mean if I was to say it was one thing, one thing only I'd say it was probably our lifestyle in terms of the food we eat now. Probably, certainly we don't eat enough green vegetables which we should be eating every day. The stress we have at work, I was working very long hours at that the time, probably you know nine in the morning till nine at night which I don't think helped, it probably lowered my immune system and that may have been a cause of why I got it. So I think life style is probably, probably the biggest factor in it, which is the life we lead, whether its stress free or very stressful, the food we eat.

 

Says that he has heard that cancer may be caused by the food we eat.

Says that he has heard that cancer may be caused by the food we eat.

Age at interview: 48
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 48
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Like I say, I didn't know what to think about it because I didn't know anything about it. Until now I've heard that a lot of it is to do with the food that we eat. So I mean how are you supposed to stop that? I mean you just have to carry on don't you. I mean a lot of people have turned round and said it's dairy produce haven't they, that's been a lot to do with cancers as well. I love it, I love dairy produce really.

Have you changed the way you eat at all?

I tried, I've tried. I've cut out a lot of the fatty things, yeah. I mean I think basically a lot of people eat too much fatty things don't they? But same as drinking and that like I don't even bother drinking now much, I just have the odd one now and again and enjoy it.

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. The men we spoke to mentioned industrial pollution; exposure to chemicals, oily rags, pesticides used in agriculture, and passive smoking as possible factors to consider.

 

Says that his oncologist suspects that cancer may be caused by pesticides.

Says that his oncologist suspects that cancer may be caused by pesticides.

Age at interview: 45
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 40
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I think there's always the question, well it's probably human nature is, 'Why, why did I get it?' I haven't got a clue. My oncologist has actually been doing research in trying to find causes and he has a very strong suspicion, and I won't mention his name because I know he's having severe rows about it, that he thinks it's related to pesticides.

 Oh.

A lot of people he found have had contact with country. I came from a country background, farming. And he apparently has been approached by various pharmaceutical industries to try and do research to prove that it's nothing to do with it. So it probably puts him in a very awkward position so we'll leave it there. But as far as I understand it he has a very strong feeling, and there is no scientific evidence, this is purely on conversations with his fairly extensive patient list, is he feels that pesticides or chemicals have an effect. There are vague links I believe with people who'd had, men who'd had undescended testicles when they were young, there have been discussion of vague links, also linked with vasectomies which interested me because I'd actually had a vasectomy. And I brought it up with my oncologist and urologist because it had come up in some of the research they'd done. And they were saying that currently yes they'd heard of that but there is no definitive evidence in either direction. So yes one of the big questions is why and the usual one, 'Why me?'
 
 

Says that he is convinced that the increase in testicular cancer is due to something in the food...

Says that he is convinced that the increase in testicular cancer is due to something in the food...

Age at interview: 35
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 30
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Well I do know from a couple of years ago that they have said that it's a gene, research at one of the hospitals showed that it's a gene that's passed down from the mother's side. Now that doesn't necessarily say that that is the case all the time but they know that there is a gene that in some cases does cause testicular cancer. I know it's on the increase, I have my views on it which I don't say there's any medical proof, but I'm convinced it's either something in the food chain or the atmosphere generally because I know whether it's chemicals that are pumped into the atmosphere or whether it's something that's been sprayed on crops or something injected into animals or in the water supply, I'm convinced for the simple reason that these things are, this thing is increasing. And I know one of the hospitals that I went to, whether they all do it I don't know but they had little dots spread all around the city that showed the cases where people had certain types of cancer. So I guess they are thinking on those lines. They are looking for environmental causes. 

Men even suggested other factors that they thought might have triggered their testicular cancer. For example, mumps, a previous hernia and stress.

Some men suggested that their cancer was 'totally random', or that it was partly down 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.

 

Still wants to know why he got testicular cancer.

Still wants to know why he got testicular cancer.

Age at interview: 50
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 33
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Do you ever think about cause now, have you looked into that at all?

I have asked, they don't really seem to know. The last one I heard it was colloquially known as the oily rag disease, that mechanics get it you know when they've got oily rags in their pocket. I've never been a mechanic so it wasn't that. I used to ride a lot as a teenager until I moved to London. I wondered whether it was a knock or you know from riding, I don't know. It wouldn't worry me now not to know what caused it because that's gone. I'd like for other people to be able to know. You always want, not necessarily somebody to blame but somebody to explain "Well why did I get it, why me as opposed to anybody else?"

 
Last reviewed December 2017.
Last updated December 2017.
 
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