A Man's Mojo and Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is a concern that can affect not only a man’s health but also their lifestyle.  The biggest question that looms over them is how will the treatment of the disease affect his sex life.  Now, there is research that suggests a possible connection between sexual activity and the risk of prostate cancer.  However, since this area of study is fairly new there are no definitive answers. 

There are two vastly different approaches that have been used in the studies:

• Comparing men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer to men who do not have the disease and asking them about their sexual activity throughout their life to see if there are any differences.  There are about a dozen or so research studies that took this particular method.
• Identifying men who do not have prostate cancer and documenting their sex lives.  These men are followed for many years to determine who ends up with the disease and who doesn’t.  The researchers analyzed the differences in the sexual activities of the two groups.  One large US study utilized this procedure to come up with their results.

Researchers in both studies referred to sexual activity as masturbation, partner sex, how many partners, etc.

The following are some of the conflicting findings from the different studies conducted all over the world:

• Australia:  With 1,000 men who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 70, researchers found no association between the disease and the number of sexual partners the men had.  However, they found that men who ejaculated more frequently when they were in their 20s had a reduced risk of prostate cancer.
• Britain:  When comparing 430 men diagnosed before the age of 60, the study found that increased masturbation during their 20s increased the risk of the disease while men in their 50s who increased masturbation actually decreased the risk.  Note: the study did not explain the fact that although masturbation was associated with increased risk, intercourse was not.
• U.S.:  Over an 8 year period, about 30,000 men were observed and researchers found no relationship between how often a man ejaculated and the risk of prostate cancer.  They did however, determine those that reported a higher frequency of ejaculation did have less of a risk of the disease.
• The US researchers also reviewed 19 studies and found that nine indicated that increased sexual activity resulted in an increased risk in prostate cancer; seven found the risk was decreased and three concluded there was no relationship at all.

One of the reasons why there is no consistency in the results is because there were few similarities in the way that the studies viewed certain relevant facts.  For example, some studies defined sexual activity as intercourse, while others defined it as ejaculation and some didn’t define it at all.  Also, each study used a slightly different way to ask the

question of how much sex the man had at a certain age - which in itself has proven to be an important factor.

When you take a look at all the studies that have tried to answer the question of “Is there a relationship between sex and prostate cancer” - there really isn’t a concrete answer.  Most studies say there is a relationship; a few other good ones say that the relationship is not significant and taken as a whole, there is a chance there is a connection.  But we are many years of research away from finding out the real relationship.

In the meantime, researchers are actively working on several theories to test how more/less sex (or ejaculations) could increase/decrease a man’s risk of prostate cancer.  Some of them include:

• Sexually transmitted diseases (STD) - where the cellular changes that take place with an STD may increase the risk of developing the disease.  Men who have more sexual partners tend to have a greater risk of STDs.
• Reduced toxicity - when a man ejaculates, toxins are expelled from the body via semen.  The more the man ejaculates and reduces the amount of toxins, the less time the toxins are present in the body.  Frequent ejaculations also lead to better immune functioning.  Since ejaculation is seen as flushing out of toxins, this is associated with a decreased risk of prostate cancer.  
• Hormones - most researchers agree there is a relationship between the hormone testosterone and male sexual function; however, there is no agreement on how it works.  Prostate cancer is believed to be hormone-dependent; though this is hard to prove.  Researchers further theorize that a sex hormone that impacts sexual activity may also impact risk of prostate cancer.  It could be a one-way relationship: more testosterone = more sexual activity = greater risk of prostate cancer or a more complicated relationship.  More studies need to be conducted to determine the relation.
• Reduced stress - where researchers “highly speculative” theory suggests increased ejaculation with decreased prostate cancer risk being a result of a release of psychological tension during ejaculation having a protective effect.

It seems like these contradictory studies having given us more questions than answers.  Should men masturbate more or less?  Have more or less sex with a partner?  And when having sex with someone of the same sex, what should be done?  So far, all the research has been conducted with white, heterosexual men which may or may not make a difference, but it is certainly a good idea to broaden the demographics of the participant pool.

Currently we cannot determine the co-relation between sexual activity and prostate cancer risk enough to make a recommendation of how many times a week a man

should have sex or ejaculate.  However, given the proven health benefits of sex and orgasms, it would be premature to make any change in the frequency or volume of sexual activity.  What all the researchers can agree on is that a healthy prostate is the result of a healthy lifestyle which includes a proper diet, exercise, balancing stress and relaxation along with seeing your healthcare provider regularly.  All sex educators can agree that a healthy sexual expression is part of a healthy lifestyle.

Prostate cancer continues to be mystery.  Little is known about what causes the disease or possible preventions.  But one thing is for sure a man never wants to say:  Prostate Cancer took my MOJO away. 

SOURCE: Silverberg, Cory "Sex and Prostate Cancer." About.com. January 31, 2009