What’s the most important sex organ? If you answered it’s the brain, you’re correct! Arousal begins in the brain, based on sensory input such as a sexy movie scene, a slow stroke on the leg, an evocative fragrance, a close dance—in fact, just thinking about sex can trigger the cascade of biological and psychological events that wake up an erection.
On the other hand, thinking about the health of your prostate is hardly a turn on. And surely thoughts of prostate cancer are a definite turn off. Worse still, many types of prostate cancer treatment leave men with the inability to have a spontaneous erection no matter how much sexual stimulation, mental or physical, they receive.
Thus, you’re well advised to start thinking about prostate wellness and the choices that promote it. Sure, a man’s genetic inheritance can affect his risk for prostate cancer (PCa). Does he have at least one first degree male relative who had PCa, or even a female who had breast or ovarian cancer? And of course, we often have little control over exposure to toxic substances that can cause cancer, such as herbicides and industrial chemicals.
What we do have is lifestyle choice. I’ve posted numerous blogs on how diet, exercise, positive attitude, stress management, and healthy social relationships can support prostate health and reduce PCa risk. This blog spotlights one aspect of relationships that has an intimate effect on your prostate gland: sex. To be more specific, sex that leads to orgasm.
When a man climaxes or comes, he ejaculates a fluid called semen, which carries his sperm. The prostate gland has a primary role because it produces this fluid, which is stored in tubes called the seminal vesicles. During sex, muscles at the base of the bladder constrict so no urine enters the urethra, while muscular contractions of the prostate push the fluid into the urethra for orgasm.
Frequent ejaculation is good for the prostate
As it happens, ejaculation—whether alone or with a partner—appears to be good for the prostate. In fact, the more frequent, the better.
This insight comes from research conducted by a team of authors from Harvard and Boston University. Their study was published as, “Ejaculation Frequency and Risk of Prostate Cancer: Updated Results with an Additional Decade of Follow-up.”[i](I can’t help but wonder if the Puritans who settled Massachusetts four centuries ago would be shocked by university academics in Boston encouraging an activity like masturbation.)
The six authors conducted a 10-year follow up analysis of data collected by the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS) in 1992. At that time, 31925 men completed questionnaires that asked about the frequency of ejaculation as well as their medical history. All participants were followed through until 2010, with average ejaculations per month (EPM) assessed at three time points: age 20–29, age 40–49, and the year before endpoint questionnaire distribution. Not surprisingly, the average EPM tended to decrease as the participants aged. By correlating the incidence of those who became diagnosed with PCa during the study, researchers were able to develop the association between ejaculation frequency and prostate cancer.
The statistical analysis was designed to compensate for artifacts such as men who had ED (implying fewer ejaculations). After correcting for competing risks such as BMI, alcohol use, smoking, and sexually transmitted diseases, the authors’ finding can be summarized in one sentence: “PCa was less frequently diagnosed among men in the higher ejaculation frequency categories.”
The authors identify various hypotheses as to why and how more frequent ejaculation is beneficial to the prostate; if you’re interested in the full article, click on the title link above. Of course, more research is needed to understand the biology involved. Although the link between more frequent EPM and aggressive PCa is weaker, the authors conclude on an encouraging note:
More frequent ejaculation in the absence of risky sexual behaviors could represent an important means of reducing the profound medical costs and physical and psychological side effects of unnecessary diagnosis and treatment of low-risk tumors…
In other words, you don’t need to think about your prostate while enjoying the pleasures of healthy sex. Just know you may be doing your prostate a favor to enjoy it more often. How’s that for a positive lifestyle improvement?
NOTE: This content is solely for purposes of information and does not substitute for diagnostic or medical advice. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing pelvic pain, or have any other health concerns or questions of a personal medical nature.
[i] Rider JR, Wilson KM, Sinnott JA, Kelly RS 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.