29 November 2012
The risk of testicular cancer is almost tripled in men whose testes have not descended at birth, an analysis has revealed.
Cryptorchidisim - the condition where testes fail to descend into the scrotum, instead remaining in the abdomen - affects around six per cent of newborn males. This makes it the most common birth defect in boys.
In a paper published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, researchers utilised studies from the Embase and Medline databases which had taken place between January 1980 and December 2010 and looked at the potential association between cryptorchidsim and testicular cancer risk.
The scientists found 735 relevant pieces of research, and narrowed this down to 12 that matched inclusion criteria and took corrective surgery for the condition - called orchidopexy - into account.
These 12 studies were made up of nine case-control studies, involving 2,281 cases of testicular cancer diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 75 between 1965 and 2006, and 41 controls, as well as three cohort studies.
Overall, the research included more than two million boys whose health was followed for a cumulative period of 58 million years.
It was found that 345 of the boys with cryptorchidism developed testicular cancer.
Those with the condition in the case control group were almost 2.5 times as likely to develop testicular cancer as those who did not have it, while in the cohort studies, they were nearly four times as likely if their testes had not descended by the time of their birth.
Taking both the figures into account, it appears that males with isolated cryptorchidism are almost three times more likely to develop testicular cancer later in their lives.
The authors of the analysis questioned whether their findings mean that boys with the condition should be more regularly monitored in a bid to slash the risk of them dying from the disease.
"Many important unanswered questions remain, such as how laterality, degree of descent, and surgical correction affect the malignant potential of the [undescended] testis," they wrote.
"The most poignant question this study raises, however, is whether the risk of malignant transformation is sufficiently significant to warrant regular follow-up, as is the case with other premalignant states."
Research like this is particularly important given that testicular cancer is the most common cancer found in men between the ages of 20 and 45.
Furthermore, rates of men being diagnosed with the cancer have soared around the world over the past few decades.
In the UK alone, the number of new cases almost doubled between 1975-7 and 2006-8. Rates shot up from 3.4 out of 100,000 men to 6.9 out of 100,000 men.
If the cancer is caught early, there is a high chance of recovery, with over 95 per cent of men with early stage testicular cancer being completely cured.
It is one of the most treatable types of cancer, and even in more advanced cases where the cancer has spread outside the testicles to tissue nearby, there is an 80 per cent chance of being cured.
Posted by Philip Briggs
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