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Does Masturbating Increase Risk of Prostate Cancer or Vice Versa?

By Dr. Mayuri Pandey +2 more

Introduction

Discussing the pleasures and health benefits of certain solo endeavours may raise many eyebrows, such as in the case of masturbation and its association with prostate cancer. It is a malignant tumour of the prostate gland and is one of the main causes of death due to cancer in men worldwide. It is the third most common cancer in Indian men and has been linked to risk factors like vasectomy procedures, obesity, diabetes mellitus, and poor BMI.1 Men will be glad to know that studies suggest that frequent ejaculation through intercourse or masturbation has health benefits, and lowering the risk of prostate cancer is one of them.2 Contrary to popular belief, masturbation, if done in moderation, does not increase the risk of prostate cancer.3

The Link between Masturbation and Prostate Cancer

Masturbation is a common sexual act that has been misunderstood and seen as taboo by society. It involves self-stimulation of the genitalia to achieve sexual release, orgasm, or ejaculation and feel sexual pleasure. People of all genders and sexual orientations can engage in this private activity. It can be both self or partner-assisted.


The ejaculate in men is essentially semen, which contains a large portion of the seminal fluid, a sperm-nourishing liquid. The prostate gland, which is found in men just below the urinary bladder, is responsible for producing this seminal fluid. Hence, the close link between masturbation and prostate cancer cannot be ignored.2 

Regular masturbation can be beneficial for the prostate’s health, which can thereby reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Here are a few benefits of masturbation:

  • It supports healthy blood flow to the gland
  • Increases the flushing of accumulated toxins and waste
  • Aids in maintaining the prostate gland’s proper functioning

One of the most extensive studies was published in European Urology in 2016, in which over 31,000 males were followed for over 20 years. The researchers concluded that frequent ejaculators (irrespective of masturbation or intercourse) had lower prostate cancer rates than other males.4

The precise reason for the positive relationship between masturbation and prostate cancer is not entirely understood since the cancer of the prostate gland is multifactorial. Studies show prolonged contact between the cells of the prostate gland and their secretions, such as seminal fluid, which contains sufficient levels of zinc, phosphates, citric acid, and the male hormone di-hydrotestosterone (DHT), may accelerate the growth of cancer.5 Hence, it may be derived that masturbation reduces the contact between the cells and fluids of the prostate gland. However, this fact has yet to be proven.

Other Factors That Affect Prostate Cancer Risk

There are several factors as mentioned below that affect the risk of developing prostate cancer. While some of these factors are beyond our control, knowing them can still help men make wise choices regarding their health. 6

Age- The most significant risk factor for prostate cancer is age. The majority of cases are found in men over 65, and the risk increases with age. Younger men rarely develop prostate cancer. 6

Genetics and Family History- A family history of prostate cancer can increase the risk of the disease. If a close relative, such as a father or brother, has had prostate cancer, the risk increases. Specific gene mutations, such as those in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, can also raise the risk. 6

Race & Ethnicity- Prostate cancer is more prevalent in some racial and ethnic groups. African-American males have a higher risk of developing more aggressive forms of prostate cancer. Men of Asian and Hispanic descent had a lower mortality rate compared to Caucasian and African-American men.  6

Geographical Location- Different regions show different incidences of prostate cancer. In contrast to Asia, Africa, and South America, it is more widespread in North America, Europe, Australia, and the Caribbean. Different regions may experience these variations due to differing environmental and lifestyle conditions. 6

Diet and lifestyle- Your lifestyle choices can affect your likelihood of getting prostate cancer. A diet high in processed foods, dairy, and red meat and low in fruits and vegetables may increase the risk. Smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, and obesity are also linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer.  6

Occupational Exposures- Some studies suggest that exposure to chemicals like cadmium or colouring agents such as Agent Orange may increase the risk of prostate cancer. 6

Hormonal Factors- Hormonal imbalances or exposure to particular hormones may increase the risk of prostate cancer. High levels of testosterone, and low levels of vitamin D, have both been associated with an elevated risk. 6

The Benefits of Masturbation for Prostate Health

While the research on the specific benefits of masturbation for prostate health is still developing, several studies have been conducted to provide an overview of the psychological and physiological health advantages of masturbation and other sexual behaviours that cause ejaculation in men. 5,7 

The following are a few potential advantages of masturbation for prostate health:

  • Reduces the Risk of Prostate Cancer

Masturbation and prostate cancer have an intricate relationship. As explained, prostate cancer risk can be decreased by ejaculations through sexual acts like masturbation.5,7

  • Stimulation of The Prostate Gland

Masturbation involves external genital stimulation, which indirectly affects the prostate gland. This stimulation may keep the gland active, induce the healthy formation of seminal fluid, and drain the fluid periodically. All of these processes are natural and necessary to maintain the health of a secretory gland. 5,7

  • Better Blood Flow to the Lower Abdomen and Groin

Sexual activity, including masturbation, improves blood flow to the genital area. An increase in blood flow can help the prostate gland function optimally by supplying it with oxygen and other vital nutrients. 5,7

  • Stress Relief and Happiness

Masturbation is a private, intimate, fulfilling, and pleasurable sexual activity that can help people unwind and reduce stress. Prostate difficulties and other health problems have been related to chronic stress. Masturbation may indirectly improve prostate health by lowering stress levels. 5,7

  • Masturbation Encourages Sexual Well-Being

Masturbation gives people a chance to know their bodies, sexual preferences, and reactions. Understanding sexual desires and pleasure can help with sexual self-awareness. Accepting your own sexuality and engaging in sexual behaviours that are pleasurable and satisfying, can both be beneficial for your sexual well-being.5,7

  • Ejaculation Affects Sperm Quality

Studies suggest that infrequent ejaculation can improve sperm count and volume, while frequent ejaculation can often enhance sperm quality, morphology, and DNA fragmentation (breakages and patterns in the genetic material of the sperm). 8

  • Ejaculation Results in Better Sleep

Following an orgasm, your body releases oxytocin, a stress-reducing hormone, and blocks cortisol, a stress-inducing hormone. Research says that orgasms shorten the time it takes to fall asleep and enhance the quality of sleep. 9

Conclusion

The inverse relationship between masturbation and prostate cancer clearly requires more scientific studies. In a country like India, it is still difficult for physicians to record a detailed history of self-stimulation or masturbation. There is a long way to go before doctors start prescribing ‘masturbation’ for better sexual health. The majority of factors that increase the chances of prostrate cancer, such as age and family history of the illness, are unchangeable. Hence, if there exists a natural and pleasurable way of reducing the risks of prostate cancer, then why not try it? 

FAQs

How many times should a man release sperm in a week?

The frequency of ejaculations varies greatly from person to person and is affected by factors like age, health, and sexual choices. There is no set quota or suggested frequency for ejaculation. However, excessive acts of masturbation could be bad.

Can ejaculate too much cause prostatitis?

An infection or inflammation of the prostate gland, known as prostatitis, is caused by bacteria or other elements. In some people, excessive intercourse, including many ejaculations, may cause momentary pain or annoyance in the prostate or pelvic region. A proposed reason for the symptoms of chronic Prostatitis/Chronic pelvic pain syndrome is frequent ejaculation-associated free radical and lactic acid accumulation, which results in noninfectious inflammation and muscle weakness, not prostatitis. 10

What aggravates prostate cancer?

Age, sedentary lifestyle, chronic stress, and processed food/ red meat are a few aggravating factors in prostate cancer. If you have a family history of prostate cancer, it is best that you stay away from these.

How can I naturally protect my prostate?

Maintain a healthy weight, avoid processed foods with preservatives, hydrate yourself better, exercise regularly and avoid self-medicating with hormonal supplements that may derange the levels of testosterone to keep your prostate healthy

What are the 5 warning signs of prostate cancer?

Difficulty in the start of urination
An interrupted flow of urine
The desire to urinate multiple times, especially at night
Pain while urinating
Mild specks of blood in the urine and the semen

References

  1. Hariharan K, Padmanabha V. Demography and disease characteristics of prostate cancer in India. Indian J Urol. 2016 Apr-Jun;32(2):103-8. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4831497/
  2. Aboul-Enein BH, Bernstein J, Ross MW. Evidence for masturbation and prostate cancer risk: do we have a verdict? Sexual medicine reviews. 2016 Jul;4(3):229-34. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27871956/ 
  3. Leitzmann MF, Platz EA, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC, Giovannucci E. Ejaculation frequency and subsequent risk of prostate cancer. Jama. 2004 Apr 7;291(13):1578-86. Available from: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/198487
  4. Rider JR, Wilson KM, Sinnott JA, Kelly RS, Mucci LA, Giovannucci EL. Ejaculation frequency and risk of prostate cancer: updated results with an additional decade of follow-up. European urology. 2016 Dec 1;70(6):974-82. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0302283816003778
  5. Levin RJ. Sexual activity, health and well-being–the beneficial roles of coitus and masturbation. Sexual and relationship therapy. 2007 Feb 1;22(1):135-48. Available from:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14681990601149197
  6. Bostwick DG, Burke HB, Djakiew D, Euling S, Ho SM, Landolph J, Morrison H, Sonawane B, Shifflett T, Waters DJ, Timms B. Human prostate cancer risk factors. Cancer: Interdisciplinary International Journal of the American Cancer Society. 2004 Nov 15;101(S10):2371-490. Available from: https://acsjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/cncr.20408
  7. Brody S. The relative health benefits of different sexual activities. The journal of sexual medicine. 2010 Apr;7(4_Part_1):1336-61. Available from:https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01677.x
  8. Hanson BM, Aston KI, Jenkins TG, Carrell DT, Hotaling JM. The impact of ejaculatory abstinence on semen analysis parameters: a systematic review. Journal of assisted reproduction and genetics. 2018 Feb;35:213-20. Available from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10815-017-1086-0
  9. Lastella M, O’Mullan C, Paterson JL, Reynolds AC. Sex and sleep: Perceptions of sex as a sleep promoting behavior in the general adult population. Frontiers in Public Health. 2019 Mar 4;7:33. Available from:https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2019.00033/full
  10. Peng H, Chen Q, Tan Y. Frequent ejaculation associated free radical and lactic acid accumulation cause non-infectious inflammation and muscle dysfunction: a potential mechanism for symptoms in Chronic Prostatitis/Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome. Med Hypotheses. 2009 Sep;73(3):372-3. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19435656
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