Can Sex, Masturbation Affect Prostate Cancer Risk?

Here’s a health tip that might sound pretty good to many guys: Have more sex, or masturbate more, and you might lower your odds of getting prostate cancer. Research suggests that the more often men ejaculate, the less likely they are to have the disease.

What’s the Link?

Over the years, there’s been growing evidence of a link between ejaculation and lower chances of prostate cancer. But the 2016 results of a major study made the strongest case yet. The researchers asked men to answer questions about how often they ejaculated. How didn’t matter -- sex, masturbation, or wet dreams were all included. Then they tracked almost 32,000 of these men for 18 years.

The researchers found that guys who did it the most (at least 21 times a month) had about a 20% lower chance of prostate cancer, compared with those who did it less (4 to 7 times a month). That was true in several age groups.

The exact number of times didn’t matter. Basically, the more men ejaculated in a month, the less likely they were to get prostate cancer.

Why might ejaculation help prostate health? Experts aren’t sure. Some believe that it can flush out harmful chemicals that might build up in semen.

What We Don’t Know

While research is promising, there’s still a lot scientists need to learn. Some things to consider:

  • There’s no proof that ejaculating more actually causes lower chances of prostate cancer. For now, doctors just know they’re connected. It may be that men who do it more tend to 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. Experts don’t know why.
  • Scientists don’t know if ejaculation during sex vs. masturbation has the same benefits. Some research has found that the makeup of semen is different for each. For example, semen during sex has higher levels of sperm and some chemicals. It’s possible that these could make a difference in a man’s odds of having prostate cancer.
  • Not all studies have found a benefit. The 2016 study got attention because of its size (almost 32,000 men) and length (18 years). But some smaller studies have not shown the same good results. A few even found that some men, specifically younger men, who masturbated more had slightly higher chances of prostate cancer. Some researchers wonder if a man’s age may affect whether more ejaculation helps.

Continued

The Bottom Line

Researchers are still studying the connection between ejaculation and prostate health. So doctors may not be ready to write prescriptions for “More Sex!” yet. But since masturbation and safe sex probably won’t cause you any health problems, there’s likely no harm in doing them more often.

For cancer experts, the research is exciting because it may offer men a chance to lower their chances for prostate cancer. Most things that raise a man’s odds, like age and family history of the disease, aren’t things that he can change. But ejaculating more? That’s a job many men are willing to take on.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on June 30, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

European Urology: "Ejaculation Frequency and Risk of Prostate Cancer.”

Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School: “Ejaculation Frequency and Prostate Cancer,”  "Does frequent ejaculation help ward off prostate cancer?"

Sexual Medicine Reviews: "Evidence for Masturbation and Prostate Cancer Risk: Do We Have a Verdict?"

Medscape: "Best Evidence Yet! Ejaculation Reduces Prostate Cancer Risk,” “Study: Ejaculate More, Have Less Prostate Cancer Risk.”

Urologic Oncology: "Ejaculatory frequency and the risk of aggressive prostate cancer: Findings from a case-control study."

Journal of Sexual Medicine: “The Relative Health Benefits of Different Sexual Activities,” “Is Sex Just Fun? How Sexual Activity Improves Health.”

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