According to the American Cancer Society, more than 8,500 cases of testicular cancer are diagnosed every year in the United States. Over the past 50 years the incidence has tripled in Caucasian men throughout the world.
The average age at diagnosis of testicular cancer is 33 years. In the USA 1 in every 263 males develops the disease. Fortunately, testicular cancer is a very recoverable cancer where most men survive. However, it can have devastating effects on a man’s fertility.
Because it is most prevalent in young men, it is thought that exposure to harmful substances while a fetus in their mother’s uterus is the triggering factor for testicular cancer. It is also interesting to note that men who go on to develop testicular cancer have often experienced impaired fertility years before their diagnosis. Therefore, problems with sperm production and sperm health are often present from a young age.
Researchers have long suspected that environmental chemicals are a risk factor for testicular cancer. Many environmental chemicals are referred to as xeno-estrogens because, although they are not hormones, they behave like the hormone estrogen. These chemicals are found in wide ranging places such as pesticides on vegetables, personal care products, make-up, household cleaning products and chemicals in water. It can be quite difficult to mimimise your exposure but it is very important for pregnant women to try and use natural alternatives to these types of products.
New research has shown that exposure to radiation while in their mother’s womb can increase the risk of testicular cancer in men. These findings are based on a study conducted on mice at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. The findings were published today in the journal PLoS ONE.
Radiation is capable of causing DNA damage. When researchers exposed female mice in the middle of their pregnancies to modest doses of radiation, all the male offspring developed testicular cancer. This is compared to 45 percent of the mice who were not exposed to radiation. Additionally, the tumors were more aggressive and had more sites of origin.
This is a worrying finding because radiation is all around us. It’s important to be aware of radiation from medical X rays, cell phones, air travel, microwave ovens and other sources.