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2 February 2009
Sex and masturbation associated with higher prostate cancer risk
by George Atkinson

Men who are very sexually active in their twenties and thirties are more likely to develop prostate cancer, especially if they masturbate frequently, according to a study in BJU International. The new research directly contradicts an earlier study (see below) that suggested frequent orgasms help protect against prostate cancer.

Interestingly, most of the increased risk that was identified in the new study was attributed to masturbation rather than sexual intercourse. The study, led by the University of Nottingham, UK, looked at the sexual practices of more than 400 men who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 60, together with a control group.

The men who took part in the study were asked about all aspects of their sex life from their twenties onwards, including how old they were when they became sexually active, how often they masturbated and had intercourse, how many partners they had slept with, and whether they had had any STDs. "We were keen to look at the links between sexual activity and younger men as a lot of prostate cancer studies focus on older men as the disease is more prevalent in men over 50," explained researcher Polyxeni Dimitropoulou.

"Hormones appear to play a key role in prostate cancer and it is very common to treat men with therapy to reduce the hormones thought to stimulate the cancer cells. A man's sex drive is also regulated by his hormone levels, so this study examined the theory that having a high sex drive affects the risk of prostate cancer," Dimitropoulou added.

Key points that came out of the study included:

  • Around 59 percent of the men in both groups said that they had engaged in sexual activity (intercourse or masturbation) 12 times a month or more in their twenties. This fell steadily as they got older, to 48 percent in their thirties, 28 percent in their forties and 13 percent in their fifties.

  • Approximately 40 percent of the cancer group had had six female partners or more, compared with 31 percent of the control group.

  • Men with prostate cancer were more likely to have had a sexually transmitted disease than those without prostate cancer.

  • More men with prostate cancer fell into the highest frequency groups in each decade when it came to sexual activity (intercourse and masturbation) than men in the control group. Forty percent of men in the cancer group fell into the highest frequency category in their twenties (20 or more times a month) compared to 32 percent in the control group. Similar patterns were observed in the men's thirties and forties.

  • Men with prostate cancer were also more likely to masturbate frequently than men in the control group, with the greatest difference in the twenties (34 percent versus 24 percent) and thirties (41 percent versus 31 percent). The differences were less pronounced in their forties (34 percent versus 28 percent) and by the fifties the cancer group was slightly lower (25 percent versus 26 percent).

"What makes our study stand out from previous research is that we focused on a younger age group than normal and included both intercourse and masturbation at various stages in the participants' lives" says Dimitropoulou. "Overall we found a significant association between prostate cancer and sexual activity in a man's twenties and between masturbation and prostate cancer in the twenties and thirties. However there was no significant association between sexual activity and prostate cancer in a man's forties."

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Source: BJU International

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