Views & Reviews Personal View

Routine testicular self examination: it’s time to stop

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e2120 (Published 28 March 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2120
  1. Keith Hopcroft, general practitioner, Basildon, Essex
  1. keithhopcroft{at}supanet.com

What do Robbie Williams and the Leicester Tigers rugby team have in common? Answer: testicles. Plenty of them. Enough cojones, in fact, to be leading lights in testicle cancer awareness.1 2 And they’re not alone. We are regularly bombarded by celebrity exhortations to be “testicle aware,” typically via some attention (and testicle) grabbing stunt.3

The specific message that cancer charities and men’s health tub thumpers ram home is that any self respecting bloke should regularly examine his testicles. Or grope his gonads. Or caress his crown jewels. Or whatever the prevailing vernacular might be—so long as it sounds non-threatening and wacky.

It’s easy for the profession and the public to get carried away with earnest health promotion dressed up as fun and assume that routine testicular self examination is self evidently A Good Thing. The trouble is, it isn’t. It’s an activity based purely on well meaning whimsy, with the potential to do harm.

There is no good evidence that routine testicular self examination is of any benefit.4 5 6 Nor will there ever be: a study of adequate power would require millions of men, simply because testicular cancer is so rare.4 This fact is distorted by all the well meaning evangelism—few consumers of men’s health media would realise, for example, that the average …

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