Like most types of cancer, it is difficult to identify the exact cause of testicular cancer. Testicular cancer may be caused by genetic mutations in the cell DNA. Studies are being conducted to learn how certain changes in a cell’s DNA can cause the cell to become cancerous.
DNA is a molecule in each of our cells that is responsible for making up our genes. Genes provide instructions for everything that our cell does. We inherit the genes from our parents.
Two types of genes are associated with cancer development:
- Oncogenes: These are the genes that promote cell division.
- Tumor suppressor genes: These are the genes that slow down cell division or cause cell death at the right time.
DNA mutations causing the activation of oncogenes and inactivation of tumor suppressor genes can lead to cancer.
What are the risk factors for testicular cancer?
A risk factor is something that increases a person’s risk of cancer. Having a risk factor or multiple risk factors does not mean that a person will get cancer. Under certain circumstances, people with several risk factors do not get cancer, and some people who get it may have few or no known risk factors.
However, people should be aware of the risk factors and get thoroughly screened if needed.
Some of the risk factors include:
- Cryptorchidism (an undescended testicle)
- Abnormal testicle development due to Klinefelter syndrome or Down’s syndrome
- Family history of testicular cancer
- Human immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV) infection
- Previous history of testicular cancer
- Belonging to a certain race/ethnicity
- Toxins (A toxin called ochratoxin A causing testicular cancer is also being studied.)
One of the major risk factors for testicular cancer is cryptorchidism or an undescended testicle. In this condition, one or both testicles fail to descend from the abdomen into the scrotum before birth. Men with cryptorchidism have a higher risk of testicular cancer than those with normally descended testicles. This risk may persist even if the testis is operated upon and brought down in the scrotum.
Abnormal testicle development:
Some conditions such as Klinefelter syndrome that result in abnormal testicle development may increase the risk of testicular cancer.
Having a close relative, especially a father or brother with testicular cancer, may increase the risk of testicular cancer. However, only a small number of testicular cancers occur in families.
Some evidence suggests that men with HIV infection, particularly those with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), are more prone to testicular cancer. Other infections haven’t shown any evidence to cause testicular cancer.
Men with infertility issues have a higher likelihood of developing testicular cancer.
About half of the testicular cancers occur in men between the ages of 20 and 34 years.
Race and ethnicity:
Non-Hispanic white men have a higher probability of developing testicular cancer than men of other races and ethnicities.
Personal history of testicular cancer:
Men who have had a history of cancer in one testicle are at an increased risk of second cancer in the other testicle.
Ochratoxin A is produced by a fungus that infects plants that bear nuts, spices, or coffee. Consumption of mold-infested food may cause cancer of the testis in some men. The role of intrauterine exposure to this toxin through the mother’s diet or breast milk is being studied.
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