Research Identifies New Genetic Clues for Testicular Cancer Risk

Kevin Edwards is the chief marketing officer for the Movember Foundation, a men's health organization that helps raise money towards prostate and testicular cancer research, among other efforts. Steve Russell/Toronto Star/Getty Images

Testicular cancer probably isn't something that concerns a lot of young men, but it should be on their minds. According to the National Cancer Institute, the affliction is most common among young adult males, with 56 percent of U.S. cases occurring before age 35. Even seemingly super-healthy professional athletes have developed it. And although testicular cancer is highly treatable, more than a third of young men with the disease die from it, in large part because it's not detected early enough.

British medical researchers have made a discovery that might cut into those grim statistics. They've found that genetic testing can identify the small portion of the male population — about 1 percent of men — who are 10 times more likely to develop the disease than other men.

Scientists at the Institute for Cancer Research in London studied the DNA of about 30,000 subjects — including about 7,300 with testicular cancer — and identified 19 previously undiscovered genetic variations associated with the disease. When they added that new information to testing for 25 other previously identified genetic warning signs, they devised a test capable of spotting the men most at risk.

The researchers are still hoping to make the testing even more precise. "Further studies are needed to understand how these genetic changes interact over time to influence the biology of the cell and lead to development of cancer," said Dr. Claire Turnbill, a senior researcher in genetics and epidemiology at the institute, in a press release.