Cancers of the reproductive system affect both men and women. Women can suffer from the abnormal growth of cells in their breasts, vagina, cervix, uterus, and ovaries to name the major organs which are affected. Men can suffer from breast cancer and testicular cancer as well as cancer of the prostate or other organs in their reproductive system.
Testicular cancers are those that affect the testes or testicles of a man’s reproductive system. The testicles reside in the scrotal sac and function to produce sperm and hormones that control the male secondary sexual characteristics, mainly testerone.
When cancers develop in the testicular system there are several different cells that can grow unchecked. In a many of the instances the cells also produce hormones. These hormones give the oncologist a clue as to which cancer cells are growing and therefore the type of treatment protocols which should be followed.
Oncologists will order blood tests that include measurements of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) and alpha-fetoprotein as well as the enzyme LDH. If the hormones exists alone, together or in some combination the oncologist will have the best idea about the type of cells and the hormones they produce.
In these cases the hormones are estrogen type hormones. This means that the hormones are female in origin and can cause feminine reactions in the male body. Some of the hormones produced are also androgenic in nature – such as the HCG – or male in nature. This means that if the cancer cells secrete androgen hormones in a man there won’t be any secondary changes.
Breast cancers in men also respond to the addition of estrogen in the body by growing larger. In men, abnormal growth of the breast tissue can be benign or one of several different types of cancer cells. But breast cancer in men is rare, accounting for only 1% of all reported breast cancers.
Some of the risk factors for breast cancer in men include obesity, a predisposition in the family, excessive weight, liver disease, radiation exposure, age, Klinefelter’s syndrome or exposure to estrogen. Many of the risk factors for breast cancer in men include the increased levels of estrogen or decreased levels of androgens.
Men who carry extra fat cells find that the fat converts the androgens to estrogens. Men who have Klinefelter’s syndrome have an extra X chromosome that increases the production of estrogen in the body and liver disease will also decrease the androgen activity and increase the estrogen levels.
Through an increase of estrogen levels men are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer. This increased exposure can also be a result of the hormones that are secreted from the cells that cause the testicular cancer.
Men are encouraged to do frequent testicular examinations to increase the likelihood that they will find an abnormality in their testicles prior to the cancer spreading to other parts of their body.
American Cancer Society: Testicular Cancer
American Cancer Society: Breast Cancer in Men
American Cancer Society: What happens after Treatment
Cancer REsearch UK: Testicular Cancer Risks and Causes
OncoLink: Testicular Cancer
National Cancer insitute: Testicular Cancer Screening