The mortality rate for testicular cancer has been dropping throughout California, but it has increased in three counties, according to an analysis of overall cancer death rates in the U.S. While the increases in San Bernardino, Imperial and Stanislaus counties between 1980 and 2014 were relatively small, the study's lead author still finds them "alarming."
The study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
"We need to do better in order to prevent mortality from this preventable cause of death," said lead author Dr. Ali Mokdad, professor of global health at the University of Washington.
Mokdad said the findings merit further investigation.
"If you look at testicular cancer as a proxy for what's happening in the community, that's alarming," he said. "That's telling me people in these communities, especially young males, are not going to doctors for screening."
Testicular cancer is most common among young men aged 20 to 34. Nationally the number of people dying from the disease is low. The National Cancer Institute estimates that in 2016 380 people died in the U.S. from the disease.
The exact causes of testicular cancer are unknown, according to Dr. Hooman Djaladat, associate professor of clinical urology at USC's Norris Cancer Center. Some risk factors have been identified, including undescended testes in newborns, but "because it's not a very common cancer there's not a very significant amount of data available to delineate the cause and effect of these factors," he said.
A report published last year by USC's Keck School of Medicine found that testicular cancer cases in Los Angeles County remained highest in non-Latino whites, but found "rates among Latino whites rose sharply in recent years."
The JAMA study found that the overall death rate in the U.S. from cancer had declined between 1980 and 2014 by around 20 percent, although Mokdad noted that "for certain places they're going up or the decline is not matching the decline of the nation."