In the 1980s, reports began to surface of a potential connection between vasectomies and prostate cancer. This worried men considering vasectomies for birth control, but it was also controversial. Some studies detected an association while others didn’t. Harvard Prostate Knowledge last covered the topic in 2015, after the largest study to that point detected slightly higher risks of high-grade prostate cancer among men who had a vasectomy compared to men who hadn’t.
Now that study has been eclipsed by an even larger one.
Here’s how the analysis worked
For this new effort, researchers with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota looked through 53 studies with a combined 15 million men who had a vasectomy and were then followed for up to 24 years. The Mayo researchers also controlled for a potential bias that made some of the earlier studies hard to interpret: specifically, that men who get a vasectomy are more likely to pay attention to their health, including prostate cancer screening with a PSA test. Scientists had speculated that reported links between vasectomy and prostate cancer could have more to with screening results and early detection than with vasectomy itself.
To control for that possibility, the Mayo team stratified all 53 studies by whether their risk of bias was high, medium, or low.
Here’s what researchers found
They found that evidence linking vasectomy with prostate cancer was strongest in the more biased studies. And when looking at the low-bias studies — the ones that best accounted for the effect of early detection with PSA screening — the connection with prostate cancer was “negligible,” according to Dr. Bimal Bhindi, a urologist at the Mayo Clinic who led the research. Furthermore, the low-bias studies contained no evidence at all that vasectomy elevates risks for the high-grade prostate cancers that threaten survival.
“We synthesized three decades of epidemiological research on the topic and found no clear proof that vasectomy causes prostate cancer,” Bhindi wrote. “Nor do we know of any clear biological mechanism for how it could do so.”
“The current study is noteworthy for its sheer size,” added Dr. Marc Garnick, the Gorman Brothers Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and editor in chief of HarvardProstateKnowledge.org, who offered a more tempered assessment. “However, retrospective analyses that try to sort out biases are always challenging. For now, the potential risk of prostate cancer should probably not dissuade an individual from having a vasectomy if that procedure is thought to result in the most optimal birth control method.”
Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren
Psalm 30:1-12 A Psalm of David. I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. …
James 5:13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.
1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
John 15:9-11 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
Isaiah 55:1 “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Joshua 1:5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.
Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
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