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Possible connection between male infertility and cancer risk

This discovery could lead to a more personalized approach to cancer risk assessments, making cancer prevention more effective.

The original post from the Huntsman Cancer Institute can be viewed here.

Researchers at the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute have documented a surprising trend in families with male infertility: an increased risk of certain cancers. This discovery could lead to a more personalized approach to cancer risk assessments, making cancer prevention more effective.

According to the National Institutes of Health, around 9% of men of reproductive age have experienced fertility problems.

Men who experience infertility tend to have more health issues like cardiovascular disease, autoimmune conditions, earlier mortality, chronic health conditions and cancer, according to the new study’s lead investigator, Joemy Ramsay, a researcher at the Huntsman Cancer Institute and assistant professor in the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine’s Division of Urology.

Joemy Ramsay

“We wanted to look at whether the family members of these men were at higher risk for these conditions,” she said. Her study appears in the April edition of the journal Human Reproduction.

Ramsay has a background in public health, specializing in occupational and environmental exposures. This study represents the first step in determining family members’ correlated risk levels for cancer and other diseases. Ramsay explained that since family members share similar genetic factors, environments and lifestyles, it would be easier to identify other things impacting their cancer risk. Once general risk has been assessed, etiological factors can be more accurately evaluated in determining the part they play in a diagnosis.

Using the Utah Population Database, one of the world’s richest sources of genetic and public health information, Ramsay and her team, which included Heidi HansonNicola Camp and Myke Madsen, looked at parents, siblings, children and even aunts, uncles and cousins, of men who have been diagnosed with infertility.

By observing several types of cancer at once, the team developed an algorithm that clusters similar things together. This algorithm made it possible to identify roughly 13 characteristic patterns. The patterns were based on families possessing similar multi-cancer risks, instead of looking at only one cancer type at a time.

“Both cancer and subfertility are complex diseases and processes,” Ramsay said. “This method helps create similar family groups, making it easier to uncover the reason behind a family being at high risk for certain diseases over others.”

For families with male infertility, these findings may prompt additional conversations with their doctors.

“While the link is still not fully understood, it is important to have these conversations with our families and bring your concerns to your medical team,” Ramsay said.

Further research is needed to better understand the link between male infertility and cancer risk. Understanding the reason behind a risk may ultimately lead to more personalized courses of treatment, screening and prevention.

Huntsman Cancer Institute leads the way in educating patients on how to prevent and treat cancer. For more information on genetic testing, visit the Family Cancer Assessment Clinic.