A literature meta-analysis on fatherhood status as a potential risk factor supports that childless men are less at risk of prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is the world’s second most prevalent cancer affecting males. Common risk factors include age, ethnicity, family history, lifestyle, and the environment. More recently, researchers have questioned whether being a father is a potential risk factor, producing controversial and conflicting results.
A group from China conducted a literature search and meta-analysis of eleven studies covering over 182,000 cases of prostate cancer to examine whether an association exists between prostate cancer risk and fatherhood. Their review supported that being childless put men significantly less at risk for prostate cancer, but the underlying reason as to why the results were significant is unknown. Simultaneous sub-analyses suggest that factors, such as infertility and martial status may also have influence on their results.
Men who are infertile due to lower circulating levels of testosterone are in general less likely to have children and due to reduced testosterone, have been previously suggested to be associated with reduced risk of developing prostate cancer. The research group suggests that the inclusion of this population may mediate this linkage. Furthermore, fatherhood status can also be impacted by the fertility of their partner, desire to have a family, and opportunity. Sub-analyses of married men, however, still displayed a significant association between fatherhood and an increased risk for prostate cancer. The authors note that additional research should be done to further examine this association as well as its underlying mechanisms.
Mao, Y. et al. Reduced risk of prostate cancer in childless men as compared to fathers: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sci. Rep. 6, 19210, 2016.
Written by Fiona Wong, PhD