Is the Risk of Testicular Cancer Increased by Fetal Exposure to Radiation?

A new study published in PLoS ONE concluded that male fetuses of women exposed to radiation during early pregnancy may have an increased risk of developing testicular cancer. In the study that began as an examination of endocrine disrupters as a possible cause of testicular cancer, researchers gave modest doses of radiation, a DNA-damaging agent, to female mice in the middle of their pregnancy. All male offspring developed testicular cancer, compared to 45 percent of mice not exposed to radiation and cancers were more aggressive and had more sites of origin. The study therefore suggested that DNA damaging agents should be studied as a factor in the increased prevalence of testicular cancer. The researcher said “although radiation exposure of pregnant females has been declining and is unlikely to be responsible for this increase, we intent to follow this up with studies on DNA-damaging chemicals found in cigarette smoke and air pollution, to which exposure of pregnant women have been increasing.” “A second class of DNA-damaging agents that we intend to study is chemotherapy drugs like cyclophosphamide, which are used to treat pregnant women with breast cancer.” “Studies at MD Anderson of the children of these women did not show increases in birth or developmental defects. However, we need to test these agents in our animal models since testicular cancer usually does not appear until early adulthood.”

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