March 14, 2003 -- "Use it or lose it" may be good advice when it comes to keeping mental skills sharp and staying in shape, but researchers say it doesn't apply to certain aspects of male anatomy. In fact, a new study debunks the myth that frequent ejaculation can ward off health problems such as prostate enlargement.
Researchers say there's a common myth that "exercising" the prostate might somehow prevent prostate problems. But their study shows no evidence that frequent sexual activity prevents prostate enlargement.
Non-cancerous prostate enlargement, known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), is a common problem among older men and can cause symptoms such as difficulty urinating, frequent urination, and weak urine stream. Although this condition is not usually dangerous, if severe and untreated it can lead to kidney problems.
The study, published in the current issue of Urology, followed a group of about 2,000 men between the ages of 40 and 79 and compared their frequency of ejaculation with the prevalence of urinary symptoms reported.
Although men who reported ejaculating at least once a week were less likely to have moderate to severe urinary symptoms, once researchers took the men's age into account, this association was no longer significant. In other words, age was a more significant factor affecting the risk of prostate enlargement than ejaculation frequency.
For example, 33% of men in their 40s who ejaculated less than once a week reported symptoms compared with 31% of men the same age who ejaculated more frequently.
Although this myth has persisted for years, researcher Steven J. Jacobsen of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and colleagues say this is one of the first times it has ever been scientifically evaluated.
"These results should help to debunk the myth that increased sexual activity prevents the exacerbation of symptoms of BPH," they write. "Moreover, no evidence was found that men with BPH are less likely to engage in sexual activity, once ages differences were taken into account."
SOURCE: Urology, Vol. 62, no. 2, 2003.