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Could masturbation help to prevent prostate cancer?

Regular self-pleasuring could possibly help men prevent prostate cancer, which is responsible for around 10,000 deaths every year.

Masturbation to prevent prostate cancer?
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“You’ll become deaf.”  “It’ll make you stupid.” For many years, these are the kind of threats that contributed to masturbation’s bad reputation. Today masturbation has been proved harmless and there’s even a new scientific study that claims that it may have beneficial effects.

Regular masturbation could prevent the most common form of cancer in men.

Ejaculation and prostate cancer...

The prostate plays an important role in the production of semen (seminal fluid, mixed with sperm) before it passes into the urethra during ejaculation.  Quite apart from its role in reproduction, this small gland has been the object of a great deal interest as it causes more than 40,000 cases of cancer and 10,000 deaths every year.  For this reason scientists have been very interested in investigating the relationship between prostate cancer and sexual behaviour.  And the study results are quite surprising!

Between 1994 and 1998, a team of researchers at the Melbourne Cancer Epidemiology centre1 asked 1079 men who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 70, to fill in a questionnaire about their sexual behaviour.  Their answers were then compared with those of 1259 men of the same age who didn‘t have prostate cancer.

The study concluded that those men who ejaculated most frequently between the ages of 20 and 40 were the least likely to develop prostate cancer.  Furthermore, the preventative effects of frequent ejaculation were immediate and most pronounced in young men.  

Men who ejaculated more than five times a week during their twenties were one third less likely to develop prostate cancer later in life.

The results from this Australian study appear to contradict those of previous studies which have highlighted a link between the number of sexual partners and prostate cancer.

Sexual activity and prostate cancer

In 2001, an American study2 showed that there was a direct correlation between the number of sexual partners and prostate cancer.  The most successful womanisers – those who had more than 30 lovers – were often affected by the most aggressive forms of prostate cancer. 

The study authors suggested that this may be due to one or more sexually transmitted diseases. The increase in the number of cases of cancer in patients with a history of gonorrhoea and syphilis confirms this hypothesis.  

In “The New Scientist3” journal, the Australian authors maintain that their results don’t contradict the sexually transmitted disease hypothesis.  Quite the contrary, in fact. The reason for the difference between the two studies can be explained by the type of sexual activity investigated.   

The American survey defined sexual activity as sexual intercourse whereas the Australian study focused on the number of ejaculations, whether or not intercourse was involved.  And we all know that solitary sex (masturbation) doesn’t carry the same risk of infection.  This is confirmed by Graham Giles, one of the report’s authors:  “Had we been able to remove ejaculations associated with sexual relations, I’m sure there would have been even greater prophylactic effect.”

Prostate cancer prevention is in your hands

What hypotheses can be used to explain the prophylactic effect of masturbation?  According to the report’s authors, masturbation helps to prevent the stagnation of seminal fluid.  Certain components of the fluid in semen (potassium, zinc, fructose, citric acid as well as 3-methylcholanthene in smokers) could become carcinogenic if allowed to build up in the gland.  This hypothesis is premised on the idea that the more you flush out the ducts, the fewer carcinogens there are hanging round to damage the cells that line them.  Alternatively, ejaculation might cause prostate cells to mature fully, making them less susceptible to carcinogens.  But at the moment this is pure speculation.

So who knows, in the future health advice from doctors may no longer be restricted to diet and exercise.  That being said, findings of these studies need to be confirmed before men will be formally encouraged to masturbate regularly.  

Nevertheless, occasional masturbation is quite harmless so there’s nothing to stop you from taking your prostate health into your own hands so to speak…

Get more information about cancer from the Cancer Research UK website

1. BJU Internationa,l 2003 92 (3), 211
2. AM J Epidemiol. June 15 2001; 153(12): 1152-8
3. New Scientist, 19 July 2003

Posted 08.02.2012

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