Importance: Despite 3 decades of study, there remains ongoing debate regarding whether vasectomy is associated with prostate cancer.
Objective: To determine if vasectomy is associated with prostate cancer.
Data sources: The MEDLINE, EMBASE, Web of Science, and Scopus databases were searched for studies indexed from database inception to March 21, 2017, without language restriction.
Study selection: Cohort, case-control, and cross-sectional studies reporting relative effect estimates for the association between vasectomy and prostate cancer were included.
Data extraction and synthesis: Two investigators performed study selection independently. Data were pooled separately by study design type using random-effects models. The Newcastle-Ottawa Scale was used to assess risk of bias.
Main outcomes and measures: The primary outcome was any diagnosis of prostate cancer. Secondary outcomes were high-grade, advanced, and fatal prostate cancer.
Results: Fifty-three studies (16 cohort studies including 2 563 519 participants, 33 case-control studies including 44 536 participants, and 4 cross-sectional studies including 12 098 221 participants) were included. Of these, 7 cohort studies (44%), 26 case-control studies (79%), and all 4 cross-sectional studies were deemed to have a moderate to high risk of bias. Among studies deemed to have a low risk of bias, a weak association was found among cohort studies (7 studies; adjusted rate ratio, 1.05; 95% CI, 1.02-1.09; P < .001; I2 = 9%) and a similar but nonsignificant association was found among case-control studies (6 studies; adjusted odds ratio, 1.06; 95% CI, 0.88-1.29; P = .54; I2 = 37%). Effect estimates were further from the null when studies with a moderate to high risk of bias were included. Associations between vasectomy and high-grade prostate cancer (6 studies; adjusted rate ratio, 1.03; 95% CI, 0.89-1.21; P = .67; I2 = 55%), advanced prostate cancer (6 studies; adjusted rate ratio, 1.08; 95% CI, 0.98-1.20; P = .11; I2 = 18%), and fatal prostate cancer (5 studies; adjusted rate ratio, 1.02; 95% CI, 0.92-1.14; P = .68; I2 = 26%) were not significant (all cohort studies). Based on these data, a 0.6% (95% CI, 0.3%-1.2%) absolute increase in lifetime risk of prostate cancer associated with vasectomy and a population-attributable fraction of 0.5% (95% CI, 0.2%-0.9%) were calculated.
Conclusions and relevance: This review found no association between vasectomy and high-grade, advanced-stage, or fatal prostate cancer. There was a weak association between vasectomy and any prostate cancer that was closer to the null with increasingly robust study design. This association is unlikely to be causal and should not preclude the use of vasectomy as a long-term contraceptive option.