The Link Between Genes and Testicular Cancer

When it comes to cancer, prevention is the best medicine. Not smoking, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and having the appropriate tests taken are essential to limiting your risk of developing cancer.

Testicular cancer, however, seems to complicate this fact. Doctors and researchers are not clear on what causes this disease, which affects approximately 8,000 new patients each year, according the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

The Risks

The few risk factors that have been identified, according to NCI, are:

  • Family history of testicular cancer
  • Abnormalities of the testicles, penis, or kidneys as well as those with inguinal hernia
  • An undescended testicle
  • Previous diagnosis of testicular cancer

New Findings

Recently, there is good news on the prevention front. Researchers have identified two genes that are associated with a three-fold increase in risk. The study was prompted by a doubling of testicular cancer incidence among Caucasian men in the last 40 years.

According to the study, men who have two copies of the common version of the c-KIT ligand (KITLG) gene have a 4.5-fold higher risk of testicular cancer than men who have two copies of the less common, or minor, version of the gene. Furthermore, men with two copies of the common version of variants next to another gene, sprouty 4 (SPRY4), have a 1.48-fold higher risk than men with two copies of the less common version of the gene.

What This Means for You

According to study author Katherine L. Nathanson, MD, an assistant professor of Medicine and a specialist in medical genetics at the Abramson Cancer Center, much more research needs to be done as to why Caucasian men develop testicular cancer at such higher rates than African-American men. That said, this may be the first step in developing testing to identify men who are at high-risk. By finding out if you or a loved one is at an increased risk, certain precautions could then be taken to be sure proper testing and treatment is prescribed.




University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.