As with many cancers, we can't necessarily pinpoint the exact cause of testicular cancer. We know that it's due to some form of genetic mutations that occur within the cells of the testicle that causes the abnormal growth of these cells, and causes them to become cancerous. We do know, however, that there are several risk factors that can increase a person's risk of developing testicular cancer. The most common ones that we talk about are a family history, so if you have a relative who had testicular cancer, and then there's a condition called an undescended testicle. Normally during the development of the testicles, embryologically and as a baby is growing within the uterus, the testicles originate up here in the abdominal area.
Throughout the development process, they actually descend downward and they go through a canal in the groin, called the inguinal canal, and they end up down in the scrotal area. That is called the process of descent and in some conditions there can be what is called an undescended testicle, a condition that we refer to as cryptorchidism. This condition is known to increase the risk of development of testicular cancer, not only in the testicle that had the failure of descent, but also in the other testicle. So anybody who has had cryptorchidism or an undescended testicle may be at higher risk of developing cancer, and should be performing self-examinations.
Now, various recommendations have been made about performing self-examinations. The U.S. Preventative Task Force has said that it's not necessarily to routinely screen for testicular cancer. The American Urological Association, however, does actually recommend monthly self-examinations for men by examining the testicles to make sure that there are no masses within the testis. But certainly, if you have a family history of testicular cancer or if you have a history of an undescended testicle, then you should be definitely performing self-examinations to ensure that you don't develop a mass within the testis.