Hypothesis: Does ochratoxin A cause testicular cancer?

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112 Scopus citations


Little is known about the etiology of testicular cancer, which is the most common cancer among young men. Epidemiologic data point to a carcinogenic exposure in early life or in utero, but the nature of the exposure is unknown. We hypothesize that the mycotoxin, ochratoxin A, is a cause of testicular cancer. Ochratoxin A is a naturally occurring contaminant of cereals, pigmeat, and other foods and is a known genotoxic carcinogen in animals. The major features of the descriptive epidemiology of testicular cancer (a high incidence in northern Europe, increasing incidence over time, and associations with high socioeconomic status, and with poor semen quality) are all associated with exposure to ochratoxin A. Exposure of animals to ochratoxin A via the diet or via in utero transfer induces adducts in testicular DNA. We hypothesize that consumption of foods contaminated with ochratoxin A during pregnancy and/or childhood induces lesions in testicular DNA and that puberty promotes these lesions to testicular cancer. We tested the ochratoxin A hypothesis using ecologic data on the per-capita consumption of cereals, coffee, and pigmeat, the principal dietary sources of ochratoxin A. Incidence rates for testicular cancer in 20 countries were significantly correlated with the per-capita consumption of coffee and pigmeat (r = 0.49 and 0.54, p = 0.03 and 0.01). The ochratoxin A hypothesis offers a coherent explanation for much of the descriptive epidemiology of testicular cancer and suggests new avenues for analytic research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-100
Number of pages10
JournalCancer Causes and Control
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Diet
  • Epidemiology
  • Mycotoxin
  • Ochratoxin A
  • Testicular cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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