Sexual activity and a man’s risk of prostate cancer
What does sex have to do with prostate cancer and a man’s risk of developing it or not? Maybe more than we think. Studies have found that frequent ejaculation (either from sex or masturbation) may have a protective effect against developing prostate cancer.
A 2004 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, involving almost 30,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, analyzed men’s ejaculation frequency at three periods in their lifetimes: ages 20 to 29, ages 40 to 49, and during the year prior to the study (1991). Then every two years then men were followed-up checking for signs of prostate cancer. The men who had reported ejaculation more than 21 times per month, on average, across their lifetime had two-thirds the risk of prostate cancer as men who ejaculated just 4 to 7 times per month.
Another study in 2016, which made the strongest case yet, was a follow-up to the previous study, assessed the same men for 10 more years and confirmed that men who had ejaculated more frequently had a reduced risk for developing prostate cancer then men who ejaculated less frequently. However, even if a man did not quite reach 21 times of ejaculation per month but had climaxed more than just 4 to 7 times per month, experienced some risk reduction. For example, men in their 40s who reported 8 to 12 ejaculations per month, had a 10 percent reduction in prostate cancer development and men in their 40s who reported 13 to 20 ejaculations per month, had a 20 percent reduction. This is what doctors refer to as a “dose response.”
Now what man wouldn’t want to try this as a means of prevention for prostate cancer? It could be thought of as a smart way of reducing expensive medical costs along with the physical and psychological side effects of unnecessary diagnosis and treatment of low-risk tumors.
The researchers with the studies theorize that the reason why ejaculation appears to reduce prostate cancer risk may be due to purging the prostate of carcinogens. But since these two studies are observational, they can only show an association but not causation.
Despite strong evidence in favor of frequent ejaculation, the theory remains controversial. In fact a 2008 study determined that men were more likely to develop prostate cancer if they were very sexually active in their twenties and thirties.
Research is promising but still a lot to learn
Experts are still not sure on how frequently is enough or not enough but what is known is there is still a lot to consider:
· There’s no proof that frequent ejaculation actually lowers prostate cancer risk. For now, there appears to be a connection but maybe men who have sex frequently, have other healthy habits that are lowering their odds.
· Ejaculation doesn’t seem to protect against the most deadly or advanced types of prostate cancer.
· Researchers don’t know if ejaculation during sex vs. masturbation has the same benefits. The makeup of semen is different in each. For example, semen during sex has higher levels of sperm and some chemicals. This may make a difference in a man’s odds of having prostate cancer.
Research on the connection between ejaculation and prostate health continues. Maybe someday doctors will be writing out prescriptions for more sex. In the meantime, there is likely little harm in having sex more often and most men are up for the challenge to see for themselves if sex actually can protect them from prostate cancer.