Testicular Cancer Overview

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Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention TOPICS

What are the risk factors for testicular cancer?

We don’t know exactly what causes most cases of testicular cancer, but we do know some of the risk factors linked to testicular cancer.

A risk factor is something that affects a person’s chance of getting a disease. Different cancers have different risk factors. Some risk factors, such as smoking, can be changed. Others, like a person’s age or race, can’t be changed. But having a risk factor, or even several, does not mean that a person will get the disease. And not having any risk factors doesn’t mean you won’t get the disease.

Even if someone has one or more risk factors for this disease, there’s no way to know for sure what part those factors played in causing the cancer. Also, most boys and men with testicular cancer do not have any known risk factors. Research is being done in this area.

Risk factors for testicular cancer

Undescended testicle (cryptorchidism): In about 3% of boys, one or both testicles do not move from the belly down into the scrotum before birth like they should. Most testicles will move down on their own in the child’s first year. Sometimes surgery (called orchiopexy) is needed to bring the testicle down into the scrotum.

Men who have had cryptorchidism are more likely to get testicular cancer than those who did not have the problem. Most cancers start in the testicle that has not moved down, but about 1 out of 4 occurs in the normal testicle.

Family history: A family history of testicular cancer increases the risk. But very few men with testicular cancer have a family history of it.

HIV infection: Men infected with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) seem to have an increased risk of testicular cancer. This may be especially true for men who have AIDS.

CIS (carcinoma in situ): CIS is described in “What is testicular cancer?” It isn’t clear how often CIS in the testicles becomes cancer. It is sometimes found when a man is tested for infertility. It may also be found when a man has a testicle removed because of cryptorchidism.

Cancer of the other testicle: Men who have been cured of cancer in one testicle have an increased risk of getting cancer in the other testicle.

Age: About half of testicular cancers occur in men between the ages of 20 and 34. But this cancer can affect males of any age, including infants and older men.

Race and ethnicity: White American men are more likely to get testicular cancer than other groups. The reason for this is not known.

Body size: Several studies have that the risk of testicular cancer is somewhat higher in tall men, but some other studies have not shown a link.

Last Medical Review: 01/02/2014
Last Revised: 01/09/2015