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Undescended Testicle: Risk for Testicular Cancer

Topic Overview

Being born with an undescended testicle increases the risk for testicular cancer.

  • The risk for testicular cancer is about 4 to 10 times greater in males who have an undescended testicle than in other males.1
  • The higher up in the path of descent a testicle stops, the more likely it is to develop a tumor. An undescended testicle in the abdomen is 4 to 6 times more likely to develop cancer than an undescended testicle in locations farther down toward the scrotum.

Moving the testicle to the scrotum may help reduce the higher risk associated with undescended testicles that are not treated. Most doctors recommend surgery to place undescended testicles in the scrotum, because this makes it much easier to find testicular cancer if it does develop.

Untreated undescended testicles are usually removed in adult men and teens who have gone through puberty because of the increased risk of testicular cancer.

Because of the risk of cancer, men who have an undescended testicle should have regular medical checkups (at least once every 2 years) throughout life. These checkups may include a testicular exam. If you have an undescended testicle, talk with your doctor about how often you need to be checked.

Some doctors recommend a testicular biopsy during surgery to correct an undescended testicle (orchiopexy) if the undescended testicle is in the abdomen or the child has genital defects, such as hypospadias, or a genetic disorder. In this test, a small sample of tissue is taken from the testicles and examined to find out the potential for developing cancer.

References

Citations

  1. Braga LHP, Bagli DJ (2011). Urologic abnormalities of the genitourinary tract. In CD Rudolph et al., eds., Rudolph's Pediatrics, 22nd ed., pp. 1741–1748. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Peter Anderson, MD, FRCS(C) - Pediatric Urology
Last Revised December 28, 2012

Last Revised: December 28, 2012

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