The researchers found that sons of mothers who had experienced severe high blood pressure while pregnant appeared to have more than a 70 percent reduction in risk for developing testicular cancer. Sons of mothers who experienced mild high blood pressure were found to have an apparent 62 percent increase in risk.
Pettersson acknowledged that the findings will probably "have few clinical or everyday implications." But, he added, they may ultimately help scientists get at the underlying factors that contribute to testicular cancer.
Dr. Marc Goldstein, surgeon-in-chief of male reproductive medicine and surgery at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical Center, in New York City, said such a goal was worthwhile, given the "steady rise in the incidence of testicular cancer over the last few decades, most prominently in Scandinavian countries, but also here in the U.S. as well."
Goldstein said one of the main theories seeking to explain the rise is exposure to estrogen-like substances such as phthalates, which are chemicals increasingly found in plastics -- such as food wrapping, IV tubing and fluid containers. Many hairsprays, perfumes, lubricants, and wood finishers also contain phthalates, he said.
"And the ubiquity of the compound has been already shown to be associated with an increase in estrogen-like substances in pregnant women," he said. "So it's been suspected that it's also one of the factors in the increase of testicular cancer, because its presence may lower the testosterone environment of male fetuses, and this has been associated with an increase in testicular cancer risk."
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