What Causes Testicular Cancer

April 22, 2016 10:48 am Last Updated: April 22, 2016 10:48 am

The exact cause of most testicular cancers is not known, but there are definite links to other conditions that will increase a man’s risk of developing the cancer. Currently, researchers are searching for the genes responsible for testicular cancer.  By identifying the genes responsible, more targeted therapies can be developed to fight the testicular cancer cells.  

Thus far, what research has found is that many testicular cancer cells harbor extra copies of a part of chromosome 12. Abnormalities in this chromosome (different genes) are also related to diseases like Parkinson’s, narcolepsy, and non-syndromic deafness.

Testicular cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer in younger men, ages 15–35.

Chromosome 12 is not the only one that has been linked to testicular cancer, but more studies need to be done to learn exactly which abnormal genes in the chromosomes might lead to testicular cancer. Recent studies have linked two genes, KITLG and SPRY4, involved in testicular development to an increased risk of the cancer–but again more research is needed.  

For now, we do have a set of risk factors and possible causes that can help identify those people who are most at risk.  Of course, frequent self-examination can help you identify testicular cancer early. But educating yourself and knowing your risk can also be beneficial in identifying if your symptoms might be related to testicular cancer.  

Risk Factors or Possible Causes

Undescended Testicle. This means that one or both testicles don’t move from the abdomen down to the scrotum before birth. The connection between undescended testicles and testicular cancer is not known, but those who have this condition are at a higher risk for the cancer.   

Family History. If your father had testicular cancer, you are four to six times as likely to get testicular cancer. If a brother has it, the risk jumps even higher.

HIV Infection. Those with human immunodeficiency virus or with AIDS have been shown to have a higher risk of testicular cancer.

Carcinoma in Situ. This is a testicular germ cell cancer that is noninvasive and may or not spread and progress to invasive cancer. The cells in testicular carcinoma in situ are abnormal at any rate and put those who have it at higher risk for developing invasive cancer that must be treated.

Previous Case of Testicular Cancer. Three to four percent of men who had cancer in one testicle will at some point in the future develop cancer in the other testicle.

Race and Ethnicity. White or Caucasian men are at higher risk of developing testicular cancer than black or Asian men.  

Age. Testicular cancer is much more common in younger men (15–35), but can occur at any age.

ObesityRecent studies have linked obesity to testicular cancer in young men (ages 18–29).

Klinefelter Syndrome. This syndrome or any other condition that causes the abnormal development of the testes can increase the risk of developing testicular cancer.

Key Facts About Testicular Cancer

  • Most prevalent type of cancer in younger men, ages 15–35
  • Men who are 20- to 39-years-old have highest risk
  • Average age of diagnosis is 33 
  • Highly treatable and usually curable
  • Over 95 percent survival rate

The main symptoms of testicular cancer typically consist of a painless lump frequently detected by the patient himself. Men might also have a feeling of heaviness or aching in the scrotum, breast tenderness or growth, testicular swelling, or fluid collection in the scrotum.

Dr. David B. Samadi. (Courtesy David B. Samadi)

Dr. David Samadi is the chairman of the urology department and chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital. He is a medical correspondent for the FOX News Channel’s Medical A-Team. Learn more at RoboticOncology.com and visit Dr. Samadi’s blog: SamadiMD.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.