Track topics on Twitter Track topics that are important to you
Testicular cancer represents only 1 per cent of all cancers in men, but it is the single biggest cause of cancer-related deaths in men aged 15-35 years in the UK. The causes of testicular cancer and reasons are unknown. Exposure to female hormones in the environment, in water (possibly from the oral contraceptive pill in water supplies) has been suggested. Undescended testicles are a major risk factor.
There are two main types of testicular tumour - seminomas and non-seminomatous germ cell tumours (NSGCT, often also called 'teratomas'). The two types are about equally common. Seminomas are fairly smooth tumours and account for some 60 per cent of testicular tumours but teratomas are more complex and may contain different types of tissue.
Both types of tumour are capable of producing hormones (or proteins) that are detectable in the blood, eg human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG). Teratomas can produce alpha-fetoprotein (AFP). Often the level of these proteins in the blood is useful in the diagnosis, treatment and follow-up of testicular cancer.
One of the great successes of modern chemotherapy has been the treatment of germ cell tumours. Usually four courses are given, at three-weekly intervals, of bleomycin, etoposide and cisplatin (BEP). The cure rate is 99% if caught early enough, largely due to successful treatments called cisplatin and carboplatin, which is now the standard treatment for seminoma.
Scientists made a breakthrough in 2010 in studying the origins of testicular cancer by grafting human tissue into mice. They have been able to study the development of the cells, which can cause testicular germ cell cancer (TGCC). In the latest study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, experts formulated a new method for investigating how human testes develop in baby boys before they are born. They took testicular tissue from donated foetuses and grafted it into mice, watching how the cells developed, as if inside a womb, over a six week period. Professor Richard Sharpe of the Medical Research Council (MRC) Human Reproductive Sciences Unit in Edinburgh and supervisor of the study, said: "This vital work... will help us to investigate whether common environmental chemicals, that foetuses are exposed to in the womb, play a role in the development of testicular cancer."
Source; The Independent