An Australian study has found that frequent wanking may protect men against prostate cancer in later life. A team led by Professor Graham Giles, head of cancer epidemiology at the Cancer Council Victoria, questioned more than 2000 men about their past sexual habits as part of a wider prostate cancer study. The men, half of whom had prostate cancer, were aged between 40 and 69 and recruited from Sydney, Melbourne and Perth between 1994-98. The study showed that men who ejaculated more than five times a week were a third less likely to develop prostate cancer.
“What we found was men who ejaculated most in their twenties, thirties and forties had about a third less prostate cancer risk than men in the lowest category of ejaculation,” Professor Giles.
“The men who were the high performers in terms of ejaculating had a third less prostate cancer risk than men who were in the lowest category of ejaculation.” He said one explanation for the apparent beneficial effects of self-pleasuring was that frequent ejaculation prevented semen from building up in the ducts, where it could potentially become carcinogenic. “For seminal fluid to be made it has to be concentrated about 600 times,” Prof Giles said. “So semen is a very potent and strong brew of lots of chemicals which, because of their biological reactivity, could be carcinogenic if left to lie around.” The research is set to appear in the British Journal of Urology this weekend. Prof Giles said the prostate may have more similarities with the breast than previously thought – particularly in relation to the development of cancer. He said the prostate was a secretory organ like the breast, which produced milk, only it produced semen. The researchers reasoned that just as breast feeding lowered a woman’s risk of breast cancer, maybe liberal ejaculation could have the same beneficial effects for men.
Masturbation could also have the same positive effect on a young prostate gland as pregnancy had on breasts, Prof Giles
“It might be rather like a first full-term pregnancy forces the breast tissue to fully differentiate and become grown up cells,” he said. “Maybe intense sexual ejaculation at the time when the prostate has finished growing to maturity might actually help it bed down and become a fully developed gland, rather than having too many cells lying around in it.” Prof Giles said previous reports had found an increased risk of prostate cancer among prisoners and Roman Catholic priests, while other studies suggested that having large numbers of female partners may be a factor. However, while the Cancer Council study found benefits from masturbation, it was unable to replicate the evidence about lots of sex with lots of women. “In our study we found an effect for masturbation but we didn’t find an effect for the number of female partners,” he said.
(Note from Seb, wonder if that mean’s heterosexuality is bad for your health?)
Prof Giles said the study may have implications for prostate cancer patients who grew up at a time when the practice was frowned upon. He said the findings of the study needed to be repeated by other researchers before they could be confidently claimed to be true. Until then, men could breathe easy, he said. “I really think that masturbation is a quite normal human activity, and if the habit can also be shown to be healthy and beneficial, why not?” And the next time you meet someone who is collecting money for Cancer Research, make sure you make a generous donation.