In a small number of people, testicular cancer can run in families. Having a parent or brother with testicular cancer can increase a person’s risk of getting it.

Also, some inherited conditions can increase the risk of testicular cancer.

Even though a small number of cases occur in families, most males with testicular cancer do not have a family history of the condition.

Understanding the role of genetics in testicular cancer is crucial for both prevention and treatment strategies. In this article, we look at if testicular cancer is hereditary, its risk factors, and how to detect it.

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While the causes of testicular cancer are largely unknown, some evidence suggests genetics may play a role in certain instances.

For example, a 2019 study concludes that having a family history of testicular cancer can increase the risk of developing the disease.

Having a parent who has had testicular cancer can mean a person is 4 to 5 times more likely to develop it. This risk increases when their brother has testicular cancer, meaning the person is around 8–9 times more likely to develop it.

Additionally, certain genetic conditions may have associations with an increase in risk of testicular cancer, including:

  • Klinefelter syndrome: A chromosomal disorder in which individuals are born with an extra X chromosome and may be more likely to develop germ cell tumors (GCTs), which can increase the risk of testicular cancer.
  • Down syndrome: Testicular cancer is more than 2.6 times more common in individuals with Down syndrome.
  • Testicular dysgenesis syndrome: Individuals with this condition may have a higher risk of developing testicular cancer.

While genetic factors can contribute to the development of testicular cancer, it is important to note they are just one piece of the puzzle. Environmental factors and lifestyle choices can also play a role.

Generally, more research into the association between genetics and testicular cancer is necessary.

While the causes are mostly unknown, the majority of testicular cancers originate from germ cells, which are responsible for producing sperm within the testicles.

Some factors may increase the risk of developing testicular cancer, including:

  • Cryptorchidism: Undescended testicles characterize this condition and are the most significant risk factor for testicular cancer, particularly if not treated in childhood.
  • Germ cell neoplasia in situ (GCNIS): Abnormal cells in the testicles characterize this condition. However, GCNIS is not cancer. Left untreated, GCNIS can develop into cancer within 5 years, affecting approximately 50% of people who have it.
  • Previous testicular cancer: Individuals who have previously had testicular cancer are 12–18 times more likely to develop it in the other testicle.
  • Hypospadias: Abnormalities in the penis and urethra characterize this condition. Approximately 1 in every 200 babies in the United States are born with hypospadias.
  • Race and ethnicity: White men have a higher risk of testicular cancer than men from other ethnic groups.
  • HIV or AIDS: Having HIV or AIDS may increase the risk of testicular cancer.
  • Age: It is most common for individuals between the ages of 15 and 49 to receive a diagnosis of testicular cancer. Although, it can occur at any age. The average age at diagnosis is approximately 33.

Early detection is key to improving outcomes for individuals with testicular cancer.

Routine testicular self-exams can help individuals familiarize themselves with the normal size, shape, and texture of their testicles to help them easily detect any changes that may indicate a problem.

Learn how to perform a self-check.

People should see a doctor if they experience any of the following signs or symptoms:

  • an unusual lump or swelling in a testicle
  • pain in a testicle or scrotum
  • a heavy or aching scrotum
  • pain in the lower belly
  • an unusual difference between one testicle and the other
  • breast soreness or growth

In addition to self-exams, regular checkups with a healthcare professional can help identify and address any potential issues. A doctor may carry out various tests to further evaluate any abnormalities found during a physical examination.

These tests can include:

Blood tests will include specific testicular cancer tumor markers which can aid in the diagnosis and follow-up evaluations after treatment.

Doctors do not routinely use genetic testing to diagnose testicular cancer. However, it can be valuable for some people, particularly when there is a strong family history of the disease.

Having a family history of testicular cancer or certain genetic conditions can sometimes increase an individual’s risk of getting the cancer. However, most times, there is no family history of testicular cancer.

Other factors can still contribute to testicular cancer risk. By staying informed about the risk factors for testicular cancer and being proactive about self-exams and regular checkups, individuals can take steps to detect the disease early when it is most treatable.

While more research can help healthcare professionals fully understand the role of genetics in testicular cancer, ongoing efforts in this area hold promise for the prevention, detection, and treatment of this disease.