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According to an article recently published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, men who have survived testicular cancer for at least one year are at a higher risk than the general population for death from all causes, particularly infection and circulatory and digestive diseases.

Cancer of the testicles is the most common cancer in men 15 to 34 years old. The testicles are part of the male reproductive system and are located inside the scrotum (a loose sac of skin that lies directly under the penis). Sperm and male hormones are produced in the testicles.

Testicular cancers were among the first types of cancers to be cured by radiation or chemotherapy. Currently, most patients with testicular cancer are cured. Given the young age at which testicular cancer occurs and the high cure rate, men who have had the disease often have long-term survivorship concerns, such as medical issues due to treatment.

Researchers from Europe recently evaluated data including nearly 39,000 men who were one-year survivors of testicular cancer. Patient information was recorded from 1943 to 2002 in 14 cancer registries in North American and Europe. Median follow-up was 10 years.

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  • Survivors of testicular cancer had a 6% increased risk of death compared with the general population.
  • Survivors of testicular cancer had a significantly higher risk of death from infections and digestive diseases than the general population.
  • Men who were diagnosed with testicular cancer prior to the age of 35 had an increased risk of death from circulatory diseases; this risk was not found among men diagnosed after the age of 35 years.
  • Men who received treatment with chemotherapy (with or without radiation therapy) in 1975 or later (once the chemotherapy agent Platinol® [cisplatin] had become widely used) had an increased risk of death from all noncancer causes, from infections, from all circulatory diseases, and from all respiratory diseases compared with the general public.
  • Survivors of testicular cancer who were diagnosed at 35 years or younger and were treated with radiation therapy only in 1975 or later had an increased risk of death from all circulatory diseases compared with the general population.

The researchers concluded that long-term follow-up data from studies such as these may help to identify risks face by survivors of specific cancers-research that will contribute to appropriate long-term monitoring of these patients.

Men who are survivors of testicular cancer may wish to speak with their physician regarding their individual risks of long-term diseases or other medical conditions and appropriate monitoring.

Reference: Fossa S, Gilbert E, Dores G, et al. Noncancer causes of death in survivors of testicular cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2007; 99: 533-544.