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Young Mens’ Fears About Testicular Cancer

Written by Laurie Tarkan, Senior Editor at Buoy Health

PublishedApril 5, 2021

Young men are more worried about testicular cancer than any other cancer. Of the top 10 cancer concerns men under 25 have, 32% are of testicular cancer, according to Buoy data.

This fear may be exaggerated. Testicular cancer is considered uncommon, occuring in 1 in 250 men in their lifetime (compare this with the risk of breast cancer in women, which is 1 in 8). This year, an estimated 9,600 men will be diagnosed with testicular cancer in the U.S, a much lower rate than more common cancers like prostate cancer (with 191,900 new diagnoses estimated this year).

But this is not to say that their fear is unfounded. Testicular cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in young men, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology. About 3,000 men ages 20 to 29, and another 3,100 men ages 30 and 39, will be diagnosed this year. This represents approximately two thirds of testicular cancer diagnoses. And it’s highly treatable if caught early—with a 5-year survival rate of 95%.

Our findings are based on a small slice of data from Buoy for men who were checking a symptom they were experiencing.

In fact, the majority of testicular cancers do not cause pain, but may instead cause a lump or swelling, according to the American Cancer Society.

“We’re more afraid of a risk we think can happen to us, regardless of the facts,” says David Ropeik, author of How Risky Is It? and expert on risk behavior. “Risk perception happens more as a matter of down-in-the-gut feeling than up-in-the-brain reasoning. For young men in their peak years for mating, risk perception emotions are also coming from even lower, down below the belt.”

"For young men in their peak years for mating, risk perception emotions are also coming from even lower, down below the belt.”

David Ropeik, risk behavior expert

Despite the fears, a recent survey by the testicular cancer advocacy group CACTI (Center for Advocacy for Cancer of the Testes International) found that 45% of men never or rarely examine themselves for testicular cancer. While a regular self-exam is recommended by some doctors, it is not an official screening recommendation.

There are also misconceptions about what can cause testicular cancer. The survey found that 40% of men believe they can get testicular cancer from wearing tight underwear, taking a spin class, or having too much or not enough sex. None of these contribute to cancer.

As men get older, testicular cancer becomes a far lesser concern and other cancer worries take over, according to our Buoy data. In men 45 to 54, only 7% of cancer concerns are about testicular cancer, while pancreatic and colon cancer are much greater concerns in this age group (20% and 18% respectively).