When people talk about sex and prostate cancer, itâs usually in the context of wondering what sex will be like after treatment for prostate cancer. A relatively new area of research, though, is looking in to the possible connection between sexual activity and risk of prostate cancer.
Sex and Prostate Cancer: Is There a Connection?The unsatisfying answer to this question is: yes, no and definitely maybe. Most research has approached this question in one of two ways: Some studies compare men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer to men who havenât and asked them about their sexual activities throughout their life (masturbation, partner sex, how many partners, etcâ¦) to look for significant differences. Another approach is to ask men who donât have prostate cancer about their sex lives and then follow them for many years and note who ends up with the disease and who doesnât. The researchers can then go back and look for any differences in the sexual activities of the two groups. There are a dozen or so studies that have mostly taken the first approach and one very large U.S. study that took the second. To get an idea of why there is no satisfying answer to this question, consider some of the findings from these studies:
- A study of 1,000 Australian men who had been diagnosed before the age of 70 found no association between prostate cancer and the number of sexual partners. They also found that men who ejaculated more frequently in their 20s had a reduced risk of prostate cancer.
- A study comparing 430 British men, who had been diagnosed before the age of 60, found that increased masturbation during their 20s increased the disease risk, while increased masturbation in ones 50s decreased the disease risk. Unexplained in this study is the fact that masturbation was associated with increased risk but intercourse was not.
- A study following almost 30,000 U.S. men for 8 years found no overall relationship between how often a man ejaculated and prostate cancer risk; however, they found that those men who reported the highest frequency of ejaculation did have somewhat reduced risk.
- Reviewing 19 previous studies, the authors of the above study point out that nine of them found that with increased sexual activity came an increased risk, seven found that with increased sexual activity the risk was decreased and three found no relationship at all.
Why so many conflicting results? One of the reasons is that few of these studies looked at the same thing the same way. Some studies define sexual activity as intercourse, some define it as any ejaculation, some didnât define it at all. And each study used a slightly different way of asking how much sex at what age, which itself is emerging as an important factor.
So the âyesâ is that most studies have found some kind of relationship. The ânoâ is because a few very good ones donât think the relationship is strong enough to be significant. Taken as a whole, though, Iâd stick with the âdefinitely maybeâ answer. Unfortunately, weâre still years or more from understanding what exactly the maybe means.
Keep reading... What Could the Connection Between Sex and Prostate Cancer Be?