Testicular cancer and undescended testicle

Having an undescended testicle increases the risk for testicular cancer.

  • The risk for testicular cancer is more than 20 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 does not appear to reduce the general risk of developing testicular cancer, but it 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.

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 to 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 determine the potential for developing cancer.

Citations

  1. Zeitler PS, et al. (2009). Cryptorchidism section of Endocrine disorders. In WW Hay Jr et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 19th ed., pp. 939–940. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Last Updated: May 14, 2009

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