Causes of Testicular Cancer

The most likely causes of testicular cancer are hormone-related. These include estrogen-mimicking chemicals such as DDT, PCBs, nonylphenol, bisphenola, and vinclozolin (commonly found in pesticides) and synthetic hormones such as diethyl-stilbestrol (DES). DES was prescribed to pregnant women from 1938 to 1972, when it was banned by the FDA because it was implicated in birth defects and certain cancers of female offspring. Higher maternal estrogen levels have also been implicated. (Maternal estrogen levels have been associated with birth order, increased bleeding during pregnancy, and excessive nausea during pregnancy.) Workers in certain occupations are also routinely exposed to chemicals that increase the risk of testicular cancer; for example, leather tanning and aircraft workers can be exposed to dimethylformamide, which causes testicular cancer.

DES exposure may also occur through consumption of beef products. The cattle industry did not stop using DES until much later, and continues to use some hormones to increase milk production and make beefier cattle. (DES use in cattle was banned in 1979, but the ban permitted the cattle industry to continue to use existing stockpiles of DES. DES has been detected in supposedly hormone-free beef as recently as 2000. Also, the FDA currently permits the use of six hormones in cattle: estradiol, progesterone, testosterone, trenbolone, zeranol, and melengestrol. Melengestrol and estradioal are similar in some ways to DES. In addition, certain herbicides and pesticides are permitted in corn cultivation and hence in animal feed, including atrazine. Several of these chemicals are known or probable carcinogens.) Since DES and other endocrine disruptors are fat-soluble, long-term consumption of beef from hormone-treated cattle may yield a cumulative effect. This could explain why testicular cancer incidence rates have been increasing and vary according to race and socio-economic status (i.e., differences in typical diet).

About 10% of testicular cancers may be gene-linked. A particular gene has been found in some men with testicular cancer. This gene is believed to make such men more susceptible to testicular cancer, but to not be the primary cause.

Studies have shown that the following are not causes of testicular cancer: vasectomy, injury, hot baths.

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