Male Infertility in Families Tied to Higher Cancer Risk


  • Familial patterns in male infertility increase the risk of cancer
  • Low or no sperm count is linked to various cancers like bone and joint, thyroid, colon, and testicular cancer
  • Enhancing risk assessment and counseling for men with fertility issues and their families can help reduce their cancer risk

Infertility is a global health issue affecting millions of people of reproductive age worldwide. Notably, male infertility contributes to 40-50% of infertility cases, highlighting its significant role in family planning.

Beyond its primary impact on reproduction, male infertility is increasingly linked to higher risks of other health issues. Research suggests connections to diseases like cardiovascular problems and even certain cancers, urging a closer look at the potential domino effect of sperm health.

In a study published in Human Reproduction, researchers unveiled intriguing cancer risk patterns associated with male fertility problems (1 Trusted Source
Describing patterns of familial cancer risk in subfertile men using population pedigree data

Go to source). Conducted by Dr. Joemy Ramsay and her team at the University of Utah, the research delves into the familial implications of male infertility, shedding light on the correlation between the absence or low levels of sperm and the elevated risk of various cancers.


Unveiling the Link Between Familial History of Male Infertility and Cancer Risk

Earlier studies have indicated a connection between male infertility and a heightened likelihood of cancer in both affected men and their relatives, although the findings have been inconclusive. The risk and specific cancer types exhibit significant variability, particularly concerning individuals with low sperm counts (oligozoospermic) or no sperm (azoospermic). Notably, specific clusters of families have shown associations with distinct types of cancer.

The study encompassed 786 men with fertility issues who attended clinics in Utah between 1996 and 2017. Their semen analyses were meticulously examined and compared with data from 5674 fertile men from the general population. The familial data were derived from the Utah Population Database, and cancer diagnoses were sourced from the Utah Cancer Registry.

Did You Know?

Male infertility impacts roughly 1 in 7 couples, affecting sperm health and making natural conception challenging.

Increased Cancer Risk in Azoospermic Men’s Families

Azoospermic men’s families exhibited significantly increased risks for five cancers:

  • Bone and joint cancer (156% increased risk)
  • Soft tissue cancers (56% increased risk)
  • Cancers of the womb (27% increased risk)
  • Hodgkin Lymphomas (60% increased risk)
  • Thyroid cancers (54% increased risk)

Distinct Cancer Risks in Severely Oligozoospermic Men’s Families

Severely oligozoospermic men’s families showed a significantly increased risk for three cancers:

Interestingly, a 61% decreased risk of esophageal cancer was observed.


Variability Among Family Clusters

The study identified unique patterns of cancer risk within family clusters, suggesting shared genetic, environmental, or health behaviors. Testicular cancer risk, for instance, increased four- to 24-fold depending on the family cluster.

Among the families of azoospermic men, 13 clusters were identified, with one cluster resembling the general population’s cancer risk, while the others exhibited increased risks. Families of oligozoospermic men also displayed 12 distinct clusters, all associated with increased cancer risk.

The study aims to enhance understanding of the biological links between cancer and infertility, identifying common genetic or environmental factors . Genetic sequencing studies are underway to pinpoint specific mutations driving the associations observed in the study.

The findings could empower healthcare professionals to make more accurate cancer risk predictions for men with fertility problems and their families. Improved patient counseling could be offered based on identified cancer risk patterns.

Read More to Know About ‘Men Who Can’t Produce Sperm Face Greater Cancer Risk: Study’



While the study sheds light on potential links between male infertility and increased cancer risk, it comes with limitations. First, a crucial comparison point is missing: semen parameters of fertile men are absent, making it difficult to establish a clear baseline for what constitutes ‘subfertility’.

Similarly, information on lifestyle factors, other health conditions, and environmental exposures is lacking, which could potentially influence both fertility and cancer risk. Additionally, the study focuses on men seeking help at fertility clinics, potentially excluding a broader section of the subfertile population with limited access to healthcare.

However, the study’s strengths cannot be overlooked. Leveraging comprehensive population registries offers a robust analysis of familial cancer patterns and their connections to male infertility, highlighting valuable insights despite the acknowledged limitations.

In summary, there is a greater cancer risk among infertile men and their families with shared genetic and environmental factors. These findings revolutionize cancer risk assessments and counseling strategies for families affected by male fertility problems.


  1. Describing patterns of familial cancer risk in subfertile men using population pedigree data – (


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