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Cancer of the Testicle (cont.)

Testicular Cancer Causes

It is not known exactly what causes testicular cancers. Unlike many other cancers, testicular cancer does not seem to run in families. Certain factors, listed here, increase a man's risk of developing a testicular cancer.

Cryptorchidism: The testicles form in the abdomen of the developing fetus. While the fetus is still in the womb, the testicles begin their gradual descent to the scrotum. Oftentimes, this descent is not complete at birth but occurs during the first year of life. Failure of the testicle to appropriately descend into the scrotum is called undescended testicle, or cryptorchidism.

  • It can occur on one or both sides.
  • If the testicles do not fully descend, the infant usually undergoes surgery to bring the testicle(s) into the scrotum.
  • The risk for testicular cancer is three to five times higher in males born with cryptorchidism, even after surgery to bring the testicle(s) into the scrotum.
  • Because of this increased risk, men with this type of condition should be even more rigorous about performing regular testicular self-exams.

Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) while in the womb: DES is an estrogen compound that was once used for women with breast cancer. It is no longer used. However, sons of women exposed to a high level of estrogen during pregnancy have an increased risk of cryptorchidism and testicular cancer.

Testicular atrophy: When a testicle fails to develop appropriately, it may not mature and grow to its expected size. Some causes of testicular atrophy include mumps, torsion (loss of blood supply after twisting of the spermatic cord), or trauma.

Exposure to chemicals and pollutants: Exposure to certain toxic substances may cause the testicles to develop abnormally. The increase in chemicals and other toxins in the environment may account for the increased frequency of testicular cancer over the past 30-40 years.

Other causes: Exposures to certain drugs may increase the risk of testicular cancer. Other proposed, but wholly unproven, causes include decreased exercise, increased sexual activity, sitting with legs crossed (increases testicular temperature), and HIV infection.

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