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General Medical Questions
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Question : What are the risk factors for testicular cancer?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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February 23, 2012
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A:

Only 1% of all cancer cases in the U.S. are cancers of the testicle. But it is the most common form of cancer in young men. In 2012, it is estimated that there will be 8,600 new cases of testicular cancer, and that 360 men will die from this disease.

There are several risk factors for testicular cancer:

  • Most cases happen in young men, typically 15-40 years of age. But older men may also develop the disease.
  • Failure of one or both testicles to descend from within the body before birth (known as cryptorchidism). This raises the risk of cancer approximately ten-fold.
  • If there is cancer in one testicle, the risk for cancer in the other testicle goes up.
  • When a first-degree family member (father, brother or son) has been affected.
  • Having Klinefelter’s syndrome (a congenital abnormality of chromosomes).

But in the majority of cases, there aren’t any risk factors present. And there is no evidence that injuring the testicle or getting a sexually transmitted disease (other than HIV) increases the risk of cancer.

If it’s detected early, testicular cancer responds exceptionally well to treatment. The survival rate for early-stage tumors is over 95%. Treatment is less effective if the diagnosis is delayed.

You should see your doctor right away if:

  • You have pain in your testicle
  • You notice new lumps
  • Any of your testicles gets bigger

Some doctors recommend that young men do regular testicle self-exams. But there is no proof that self-exam leads to earlier diagnosis and better outcomes.

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