26 September 2022 | Health, Reproductive Health
Can more sex lower your risk of prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed amongst men, affecting 1 in 8 men in the United States. Many that have been diagnosed with prostate cancer are often left wondering how did this happen? What could I have done differently so that this wouldn’t happen? The answer is simple, however unsatisfying. Doctors and researchers are not sure what exactly causes prostate cancer. What we do know is that there are a range of risk factors such as an individual’s racial background, geographical location, family history and age that can increase the chance of developing prostate cancer.
While it may seem like many of these risk factors are outside of our control, one notable study conducted by Harvard researchers in 2016 demonstrated that frequent ejaculation can potentially reduce the risk of prostate cancer. That’s right - more sex (or masturbation) can actually be beneficial for your prostate health.
What are prostate cancer risk factors?
Researchers have found several risk factors that might affect a man’s risk of getting prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer usually affects men over the age of 40, with the risk increasing rapidly after 50.
Studies have shown that prostate cancer develops more often in men of African descent. Afro-Caribbean and Sub-Saharan African men suffer from the highest prostate cancer mortality in the world. In contrast, East, Southeast and South Central Asian men have the lowest rates of prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer diagnosis rates tend to be highest in more developed countries in the world, such as North America, Northwestern Europe and Australia. While the reason for this is unclear, it could partially be explained by access to medical care, including screening and early detection, and lifestyle differences.
As with many cancers, prostate cancer seems to also be hereditary. Although most prostate cancers occur in men without a family history of it, having a father or brother with prostate cancer more than doubles a man’s risk of developing the disease.
Can more sex actually lower the risk of prostate cancer?
There has been growing evidence indicating that frequent ejaculation could lower the chance of prostate cancer. Most notably, a 2016 study conducted by Harvard researchers has made the strongest case to date supporting this finding. This study followed over 30,000 men for almost 20 years, reporting on how often they ejaculated during their 20s and 40s.
The results from this study showed that those who ejaculated more than 20 times per month reduced their risk of prostate cancer by 20% compared to those who ejaculated 4-7 times per month. However, the study didn’t investigate why this was the case. Lorelei Mucci, co-author of the study and director of the Cancer Epidemiology and Cancer Prevention Program at the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health, proposed a potential explanation for the results whereby infrequent ejaculation may cause potential cancer-causing substances to remain in the prostate for longer periods of time, thereby increasing the risk of cancer.
The results from this study were especially impactful because it highlights that there is in fact something that men can do to help reduce their risk of prostate cancer. Majority of prostate cancer risk factors are non-modifiable. However, it would be beneficial to public health if people could lower their risk of developing this disease by doing something as simple (and enjoyable) as ejaculating.
What we can deduce from this study is that ejaculation frequency and prostate cancer risk are associated. However, there is much more research that needs to be done to further understand this association.
Further research is required
While this finding is significant, there’s still further research that needs to be done to provide insights into why frequent ejaculation reduces an individual’s risk of prostate cancer. Here’s what we don’t know:
- There is no definitive proof that ejaculating more actually causes lower chances of prostate cancer. For now, doctors just know that they’re connected.
- It’s uncertain whether ejaculation during sex or masturbation has the same benefits. Some research has found that the makeup of semen is different when ejaculating during sex and masturbating, which could differentially influence a man’s chance of developing prostate cancer.
- There is disagreement about which decades of life demonstrates the biggest effect. An Australian study from 2017 showed that there was a lower prostate cancer risk linked to frequent ejaculation for people 30-39 years old, but not for men in their 20s or 40s.
The 2016 Harvard study on the effects of ejaculation in reducing prostate cancer risk is one of the biggest study on the topic. While many are stoked to see the findings from the study, doctors are not necessarily recommending that men ejaculate more often to prevent prostate cancer - although there’s probably no harm to it. Instead, the recommendation is for people to speak with their doctors about screening for prostate cancer.
At Prenuvo, we scan for over 500 medical conditions and cancers, including prostate cancer. Getting regular screening can help detect prostate cancer early which allows for more successful treatment. With the 5-year survival rate being close to 100% in the United States, detecting prostate cancer early is highly beneficial for your quality of life in the long run. Contact our team for more information on screening for prostate cancer with a Prenuvo scan.