Aetiology of testicular cancer: association with congenital abnormalities, age at puberty, infertility, and exercise

BMJ 1994; 308 doi: (Published 28 May 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;308:1393
  1. D Forman,
  2. M C Pike,
  3. G Davey,
  4. S Dawson,
  5. K Baker,
  6. C E D Chilvers,
  7. R T D Oliver,
  8. C A C Coupland
  1. Imperial Cancer Research Fund Cancer Epidemiology Unit, Gibson Building, Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford OX2 6HE
  2. Section of Epidemiology, Institute of Cancer Research, Sutton, Surrey.
  3. Department of Medical Oncology, Royal London Hospital, London.
  4. Department of Public Health Medicine and Epidemiology, University of Nottingham Medical School, Nottingham.
  1. Correcpondence to: Dr Forman.
  • Accepted 10 March 1994


Objective : To determine the risk of testicular cancer associated with undescended testis, inguinal hernia, age at puberty, marital status, infertility, vasectomy, and amount of exercise.

Design : A population based case-control study with a questionnaire administered by an interviewer and with relevant supplementary data extracted from general practioners' notes.

Setting : Nine health regions within England and Wales.

Subjects : 794 men, aged 15-49 years, with a testicular germ cell tumour diagnosed between 1 January 1984 and 1 January 1987; each had an age matched (within one year) control selected from the list of their general practioner.

Results : There was a significant association of testicular cancer with undescended testis (odds ratio 3.82; 95% confidence interval 2.24 to 6.52) and inguinal hernia (1.91; 1.12 to 3.23). The excess risk associated with undescended testis was eliminated in men who had had an orchidopexy before the age of 10 years. There were positive associations with earl age at voice breaking, early age at starting to shave, and infertility. There was a significant association with a sedentary lifestyle and a moderate protective effect of exercise. There was no association with vasectomy.

Conclusion : This study confirms previous reports that developmental urogenital abnormalities result in an increased risk of testicular cancer. The trend to perform orchidopexy at younger ages may reduce the risk associated with undescended testis. The increased risks associated with early age at puberty and low amounts of exercise may be related to effects of exposure to endogenous hormones. Changes in both of these factors may partly contribute to the increasing rates of testicular cancer observed in the past few decades.


    • Accepted 10 March 1994
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