By Dr. Dave Hnida

(CBS4) – To snip or not to snip? That’s a question many men have when considering a vasectomy for permanent birth control.

It’s usually a pretty simple office procedure with a quick, uncomplicated recovery, and thought to be a lot easier and safer than say, a tubal ligation (where a woman has her tubes tied). With a vasectomy, it’s some local anesthesia to the scrotum and cutting the tube (vas deferens) that allows sperm to travel from the testicles to the outside.

But it’s not just the idea of sharp objects in private places that has some men squirming away from a vasectomy, it’s also some research that has suggested a link between vasectomy and prostate cancer.

Some studies have said “yes”—that a vasectomy will increase a man’s risk of eventually developing the cancer. Yet other studies have said no link. A coin flip study back in 2014 has been the one most doctors have thought about. A study that was fairly adamant about saying a vasectomy will not only increase your risk of prostate cancer, but increase the risk of an aggressive, deadly cancer. The problem with any of these studies, though, has been that there is no explanation as to why there might be a higher risk.

So our advice to men and partners has been, “well, we aren’t really positive one way or another…but.”

The good news this week is a new study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology which frankly offers a lot of reassurance about men going under the knife.

The study is finally a big one: more than 364,000 men, a number of whom had vasectomies at some time in their lives. The study found no link between vasectomy, and in fact actually showed a lower risk in men who had the procedure.

The main thing that was found, though, was something that we knew along. That men who are overweight, or men who are or have been smokers do have a higher risk of prostate cancer. We also know that men with a family history of prostate cancer need to be on the lookout because of their higher genetic risk.

So for men who are looking at a safe option for family planning, vasectomy should be viewed as a nice route to go. I perform them, have had one done myself, and it’s really not all that bad a procedure as you mentally imagine it to be. And now, reassuring news about its effect on your risk of cancer.

Dr. Dave Hnida is CBS4’s Medical Editor. He blogs about the latest studies and trends in the health world. Read his latest blog entries, check out his bio or follow him on Twitter @drdavehnida


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