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New study discovers link between men with infertility and families' cancer risk

While it is known that men experiencing infertility tend to have more health problems, including cancer, heart and related diseases, and autoimmune conditions, researchers said they wanted to examine if their families were at higher risk too.
Last Updated : 09 April 2024, 10:28 IST
Last Updated : 09 April 2024, 10:28 IST

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New Delhi: Families of men diagnosed with infertility could be at a higher risk of certain cancers, including those of colon and testis, according to a new study.

While it is known that men experiencing infertility tend to have more health problems, including cancer, heart and related diseases, and autoimmune conditions, researchers said they wanted to examine if their families were at a higher risk for these conditions.

The team said the results — arrived at through algorithms — could help develop a more personalised approach to assessing cancer risk, thus helping prevent cancer more effectively.

The findings could also prompt further conversations between the families of men having infertility and their doctors, they said.

The study found that the families of men with infertility are most susceptible to cancer of the bone and joint, soft tissue, colon and the testis, among others.

For the study, the researchers used the Utah Population Database, containing genetic and public health information. Hosted at the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, US, the database carries an extensive set of Utah family histories, in which family members are linked to demographic and medical information.

The team looked at parents, siblings, children, along with aunts, uncles and cousins of men diagnosed with infertility.

Since family members share genetics, environments and lifestyles, it would be easier to identify factors impacting their risk of getting cancer, explained Joemy Ramsay, a researcher at the institute, and lead investigator of the study published in the Human Reproduction journal.

Once the general risk is assessed, causes can be more accurately evaluated to understand their role in a cancer diagnosis, she said.

The researchers observed several types of cancers to develop an algorithm, which could group similar cancers by identifying about 13 characteristic patterns. These patterns were discerned by observing similar multi-cancer risks across families, rather than looking at one cancer type, they said.

"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," he added.

She added that while the link between male infertility and cancer risk is not fully understood, it is important to have these conversations with families and bring the concerns to doctors.

Further research on establishing the link is needed, as understanding the causes could ultimately lead to more personalised courses of treatment, screening and prevention, Ramsay said.

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Published 09 April 2024, 10:28 IST

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