Maybe you’ve heard about the recent uproar over vasectomies and whether or not they cause prostate cancer. Here’s the good news up front: While no study is completely definitive, the risk of getting prostate cancer from having a vasectomy is extremely small—what scientists call “statistically insignificant.”
Now let’s break that down a little.
A recent study, run by Eric Jacobs, PhD of the American Cancer Society, used a huge collection of data to take a closer look at whether or not there’s a connection between prostate cancer and vasectomies. Jacobs, who is the strategic director of pharmacoepidemiology at the American Cancer Society, led a team through data collected between 1982 and 2012 as part of a cancer prevention study. They looked at data from 1.2 million Americans.
The result, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, found no evidence to suggest that vasectomies increase the risk of prostate cancer.
“Only a small increase was found in [an] earlier  study, and no increase was found in ours,” says Jacobs, “so if I were considering a vasectomy I wouldn’t be too worried about prostate cancer.”
If you’re concerned about avoiding cancer, Jacobs says you’re much better off quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight instead of avoiding a vasectomy.
“Small increase!” you might be saying. “That means some men did get prostate cancer after having a vasectomy!”
It’s true. But let’s look at the stats: Over two decades of data showed that about 0.2% (that’s 2 in 1,000) men who had vasectomies contracted and died from prostate cancer. So the cause-and-effect association is pretty slim.
In addition, Dr. William Kormos, Editor in Chief of Harvard Men’s Health Watch, suggests other possibilities for the tiny increase. Men who have vasectomies, for instance, are more likely to visit the urologist often and get checked for prostate cancer than those who don’t. Of course that means more of them will be diagnosed with cancer as compared to those who don’t see their doctor that often and so don’t have the opportunity to be diagnosed. And, Kormos adds, there’s no scientific evidence directly correlating a vasectomy procedure and prostate cancer.
Need more convincing? No problem! The American Urological Association has reviewed all literature on vasectomies since 1949, including the recent study. Their official stance is that the link between vasectomies and prostate cancer is neither clinically nor statistically significant.
So have no fear when signing up to get that snip! The worst a vasectomy can do is be a great help with your family planning…and maybe earn you some sympathy points from your partner.