Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Causes, risk factors and prevention

What causes testicular cancer?

The exact cause of testicular cancer is not known; however, there are a number of factors that increase the risk for the disease.

What are the risk factors for testicular cancer?

The exact cause of this disease is unknown; however, research does show that some men are more likely than others to develop testicular cancer. Possible risk factors include the following:

  • Age – testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer in young men between the ages of 15 and 40.
  • Cryptorchidism – undescended testicle(s) is the main risk factor for this cancer. 
  • Klinefelter’s syndrome – a sex chromosome disorder. 
  • Family history. 
  • Personal history of cancer in the other testicle. 
  • Race and ethnicity – the rate of testicular cancer is higher in Caucasians than in other populations. 
  • HIV infection. 
  • Men whose mothers took a hormone called DES (diethylstilbestrol) during pregnancy to prevent miscarriage.

Can testicular cancer be prevented?

Currently, there is not a method for preventing the disease because:

  • There is not a known cause for the disease.
  • Many of the suggested risk factors are those that cannot be changed. 
  • Many men with testicular cancer do not have the suggested risk factors.

However, testicular self-examination can improve the chances of finding a cancerous tumor early.

Testicular self-examination (TSE) procedure

  • The best time for testicular self-examination is just after a warm bath or shower when the scrotal tissue is more relaxed.
  • While standing in front of a mirror, place the thumbs on the front side of the testicle and support it with the index and middle fingers of both hands.
  • Gently roll the testicle between the fingers and thumbs. Feel for lumps, hardness or thickness. Compare the feelings in each testicle.
  • If you find a lump, see your physician as soon as possible.

Testicular self-examination is not a substitute for routine physical examinations by your physician.