Is There a Link Between Ovarian and Testicular Cancer?
New research suggests a possible hereditary link between ovarian and testicular cancer. Read on to learn more.
Malignant germ cell tumors start in the egg-forming or sperm-forming cells in the reproductive organs, such as the ovaries or testicles. These cancerous tumors commonly develop in the ovaries or testicles because it is where germs cells are abundant; however, they can develop in any other parts of the body where there are germ cells. What’s more, they can develop in people of all ages, in both childhood and adulthood. If they are left untreated, malignant germ cell tumors can spread to other parts of the body, including the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, or bones.
Ovarian cancer, a type of cancer that forms in the egg cells of the ovary, is ranked 5th in the deadliest cancers among women, ages 63 and older. It is also known as ‘the silent killer’ because it typically does not present any symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage. Unfortunately, only around 15% of all types of ovarian cancer are diagnosed at an early stage.
Testicular cancer, a type of cancer that develops in one or both testicles, is ranked 1st in the deadliest cancers among young men, ages 15 to 35. However, it is a subject that is least discussed and because of this, its mortality rate is very high. Testicular cancer is highly treatable if it is diagnosed at an early stage.
So what’s the connection?
A recent study suggests a possible hereditary link between ovarian and testicular cancer. The researchers conducting the study used data from the Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry to analyze possible links between ovarian cancer and testicular germ cell tumors (TGCT). “The Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry is the largest registry of familial ovarian cancers of its kind and quite possibly the only resource with a sample size large enough to identify an association between these two types of cancer,” said John Lewis Etter, first author of the study. The research team, led by Kirsten B. Moysich, a professor of oncology in the Department of Cancer Prevention and Control at Roswell Park, took into account data from 2,636 families with multiple cases of ovarian cancer. “Although familial TGCT studies have yet to characterize TGCT syndromic patterns, a biologically plausible link between TGCT and ovarian germ cell tumors has been posited,” wrote the authors of the study.
The study included 2,894 men with non-testicular cancers and 34 men with testicular cancer. Out of the 34 men with testicular cancer, 24 had mothers with a known ovarian cancer status. 10 of the mothers had an ovarian cancer diagnosis and the remaining 14 did not. This indicated that men diagnosed with testicular cancer were more likely to have a mother diagnosed with ovarian cancer, as opposed men with other types of cancer. Moreover, it was seen that 43 sisters of the men with testicular cancer had a known ovarian cancer status and 14 had an ovarian cancer diagnosis. The men with testicular cancer also had 13 daughters; however, the daughters were either too young to determine their risk for ovarian cancer or failed to conduct follow-up assessments. 4 out of 16 grandmothers on the mother’s side had an ovarian cancer diagnosis and 0 out of 9 grandmothers on the father’s side had a known ovarian cancer status.
Read on to learn more about this link and what it could mean for people with these cancers in their family.