Risk factors and causes

We don’t yet know what causes testicular cancer. But we know some of the risk factors that may increase the chances of developing it. 

Having a particular risk factor doesn’t mean you will definitely get cancer – just as not having any risk factors doesn’t mean you won’t. Usually, cancer is the result of the combination of several risk factors.  

There’s no evidence to suggest that injury to a testicle increases your risk of getting cancer. However, an injury to a testicle or the groin may bring a testicular cancer to your doctor’s attention. Having a vasectomy does not increase the risk of getting testicular cancer.

Undescended testicle (known as cryptorchidism)

The testicles develop inside the tummy (abdomen) of an unborn baby. Usually, they drop down (descend) into the scrotum at birth or by the time a boy is one year old. In some boys, the testicle doesn’t drop down and surgery is carried out to bring the testicle down into the scrotum. Men who’ve had an undescended testicle as a child have a higher chance of getting testicular cancer.

Family history

Men with a brother or father who have had testicular cancer have a slightly higher risk of getting it. Researchers have found that this is, in part, due to changes in certain genes. Research continues to find out which genes may increase the risk. 

Carcinoma in situ (CIS)

This is when there are abnormal cells in the testicle that, if left, can develop into testicular cancer. CIS tends to be found when men have a biopsy of the testicle to investigate infertility (inability to have children). Treatment is usually surgery to remove the testicle. Removing one testicle won’t affect your sex life or your ability to get an erection or to have children, as long as your other testicle is healthy.

Cancer in the other testicle

A small number of men who’ve previously been treated for testicular cancer will go on to develop a cancer in the other testicle.

Ethnicity and social status

Testicular cancer is more common in white men than African‑Caribbean or Asian men. It’s also more common in wealthier social groups. The reason for this is not yet known.

Height

Men who are taller appear to have a higher risk of testicular cancer, but it’s not clear why.

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

There is an increased risk of developing testicular cancer in men who are HIV positive. In particular, there is an increased risk of a type of testicular cancer called seminoma.

Back to Potential causes of cancer

Low immunity

People with low immunity are more likely to develop some types of cancer.