office work places balls on the block

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    Heat on over cancer rise


    July 14, 2005

    FOR generations, its been jokingly blamed on tight underwear, among other urban myths.

    Now researchers have tentatively identified a cluster of potential triggers – including heated offices – that may be to blame for a staggering 34 per cent rise in testicular cancer in NSW over the past nine years.

    New figures show testicular cancer is now the second most common cancer in Australian men aged 18 to 39 and the No. 1 threat among 15 to 35-year-olds.

    But while the causes still remain a mystery, it has emerged office working, white, 30-year-old western men are at greatest risk.

    Associate Professor Guy Toner, from Melbourne's Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, yesterday said while western men were most at risk, research was being carried out into links with high cholesterol and genetics.

    It was thought exposure to chemicals containing oestrogen – such as pesticides – could be a trigger.

    A high rate among professionals has also raised concerns heated offices may be to blame, because they raise the temperature of the testes.

    "One of the theories is that some chemicals such as pesticides have some oestrogenic activity in them and one possibility is that the young male, even whilst in the womb, may be exposed to more oestrogenic chemicals in the past," Professor Toner said.

    "This might be one of the reasons testicular cancer is increasing.

    "There's also been reports of decreasing testicular size and sperm counts and the thought is that all of those things may be linked together." According to the latest figures from the Cancer Institute of NSW, testicular cancer has jumped 34 per cent between 1994 and 2003 – or a 2.2 per cent annual rise since 1982.

    The rise is just below the UK (3.4 per cent) and US (4.3 per cent). There were 231 new cases in NSW in 2003.

    "We know some of the risk factors, such as male infertility, undescended testes and family history. There is a lot of research that needs to be done."

    Research in Melbourne suggests a link between higher socio-economic class and sedentary occupations.

    The rapid jump in rates was a major concern, because there was no way of countering the risks.

    "A lot of cancers are decreasing, like lung cancer, but testicular cancer is one of the ones that is going up."
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