Norwegian researchers investigating the impact of childhood or adolescent cancers, like lymphoma, on the reproductive health of male survivors found reduced paternity and an increased use of assisted reproduction in adulthood compared to their peers, and a lower likelihood of marriage.
The research paper, “Reproduction and marriage among male survivors of cancer in childhood, adolescence and young adulthood: a national cohort study,” was published in the British Journal of Cancer.
Survivors of childhood or adolescent cancers are growing in number through improvements in treatment regimens and supportive care. As such, counseling regarding specific life events, such as starting a family and reproductive health, is a growing need. While the late effects of cancer and related treatments on pregnancy and the reproductive health of female survivors has been significantly explored, less information or analyses of male cancer survivors is available.
Maria Winther Gunnes, a PhD candidate at the Department of Global Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Bergen, led the study of the reproductive outcomes of men diagnosed with cancer before the age of 25, examining several national databases in Norway with medical, social, and demographic data. The scientists evaluated paternity, use of assisted reproduction, offspring outcomes. and marital status in male cancer survivors born between 1965 and 1985 and in cancer-free male controls.
Results showed that male cancer survivors had reduced paternity, a finding especially evident in survivors of lymphoma, testicular cancer, brain tumors, leukemia, and bone tumors, and also when cancer was diagnosed before the patient was 15 years of age. Furthermore, researchers found that male cancer survivors were more likely to use methods of reproductive assistance. Importantly, data on survivors’ first child showed no increased risk of perinatal death, malformations, low birth weight, or premature birth. Still, male cancer survivors, especially those of brain tumors, were also found to be less likely to marry than their cancer-free peers.
Such results indicate the need of developing treatments with less impact on fertility as much as improving fertility preservation methods and access. “It is important to be able to assure young, male cancer survivors that their illness and treatment will not have a negative impact on their own children,” Gunnes said in a press release.