Originally published 11/5/2017
Here is more recent news about a genomic analysis of prostate tissue from men in the study described below who developed prostate cancer. The research team, including some authors from the original study, tested for trends in gene expression according to the level of ejaculation frequency as self-reported in 1992 for ages 20-29, 40-49, and the year prior to the questionnaire, 1991.[i] The analysis included 157 specimens from prostate cancer tumors, and 85 samples from adjacent normal tissue. The researchers did not find a link between ejaculation frequency and gene expression in tumor specimens. However, in normal tissue they “… identified biological processes that could link ejaculation frequency and prostate cancer.” This means that the genomic changes they identified reveal potential biological pathways by which tumor activity is regulated by the body. In other words, frequent ejaculation that includes masturbation as well as with a sexual partner may lower prostate cancer risk at the level of gene activity.
If you’re at least 45 years old, you may have heard some outlandish boyhood myths designed to discourage you from masturbating. Messages about going blind, losing your hair or growing hair on your knuckles, getting zits, etc. may ironically have increased your curiosity. Now, the journal European Urology[ii] has published a new Harvard University study, suggesting that more frequent ejaculation – including masturbation – may protect adult men against prostate cancer (PCa).
Lowering prostate cancer risk
While medicine is not yet able to change PCa risk factors such as genetics, considerable research goes into lifestyle changes that can lower the odds of developing PCa. These include things like diet, exercise, stress management, quitting smoking, and avoiding exposure to environmental toxins. Apparently, it’s time to put sexual behavior on that list.
21 times per month
The information on frequency of ejaculation comes from study questionnaires issued to over 30,000 health professionals who participate in the decades-long Health Professionals Follow-up Study. The questionnaire does not ask how ejaculation was achieved, so presumably any act leading to orgasm with ejaculation is included, not just intercourse. Dividing the data into age categories shows that as men age, they tend toward fewer ejaculations per month. The authors found that the risk of developing PCa was lowered by 20% for men who ejaculated 21 times per month, as compared to those who ejaculated 4-7 times per month. Interestingly, “A similar Australian study found the risk was reduced by 36 percent when men ejaculated seven times a week.”[iii]
No one is exactly sure why frequency can protect against PCa. A main theory has to do with the seminal fluid that is expelled during orgasm. It may rid prostate tissue from agents that cause cancer, infection and inflammation. In short, ejaculation helps keep the prostate healthy.
Attitudes toward sexual behavior continue to change, and talking about sex has become more open and less shameful. Psychologists tell us that masturbation is a normal, healthy part of sexuality for both men and women. In addition, medical researchers continue to educate us on its relationship to overall health. If, indeed, more frequent masturbation helps prevent cancer, it’s good news for prostates.
[i] Sinnott JA, Brumberg K, Wilson KM, Ebot EM et al. Differential Gene Expression in Prostate Tissue According to Ejaculation Frequency. Eur Urol. 2018 Nov;74(5):545-548.
[ii] Rider JR, Wilson KM, Sinnott J, Kelly R et al. Ejaculation frequency and risk of prostate cancer: updated results with an additional decade of follow-up. Eur Urol. 2016 Dec;70(6):974-982.