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HEALTH REPORT - July 17, 2002: Vasectomy Study - 2002-07-11

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

A major study has failed to find any link between a man having a vasectomy operation and developing prostate cancer. A vasectomy is an operation in which a doctor cuts the tubes that carry a man’s sperm from the testes. It is one of the most effective and widely used methods of birth control around the world. Experts say about five-hundred-thousand men have vasectomies every year in the United States alone.

Doctors have been concerned for some time about a possible link between the operation and the development of prostate cancer. Studies done in the past had conflicting results. Some studies showed no link. But others said men who had vasectomies had an increased chance of developing prostate cancer. Two studies were done in the United States in nineteen-ninety-three. The studies said men with vasectomies had a sixty-six percent higher chance of developing prostate cancer than men who did not have the operation.

But the new study says the operation does not increase the risk of cancer. The results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

It was carried out in New Zealand by researchers at the Dunedin (da-NEE-din) and Wellington Schools of Medicine. New Zealand has extremely good reporting of cancer cases. And it has the highest rate of vasectomy in the world. The New Zealand Herald newspaper reports that about forty percent of men ages forty to seventy years old have had the operation.

The researchers spoke to more than two-thousand men. Almost half had recently developed prostate cancer. The others did not have the disease. All the men were between the ages of forty and seventy-four.

The researchers asked them about their medical histories and those of family members. They also asked about activities like smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. The researchers found no difference in the cancer rates among the men who had vasectomies and those who did not have the operation. They also found no increased chance of prostate cancer among men who had vasectomies twenty-five or more years earlier.

Other researchers say the New Zealand study is the best one done so far about vasectomy and prostate cancer. They say it was large enough to have found any link that might exist.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Nancy Steinbach.