If my medical specialty of Urology were to be compared to Major League Baseball, then my ‘World Series’ would be the Annual Meeting of the American Urological Association. At this event, some of the brightest urologic research minds come together to discuss the latest in urological health for our patients. As always, this year’s meeting was full of promising research. But perhaps the most curious and certainly the most widely discussed was a study conducted by an epidemiologist (someone who studies the patterns and causes of diseases) at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. It concluded this: Men may be able to reduce their prostate cancer risk by ejaculating frequently.
Now, I hesitate to provide too many specific recommendations here – sex is a very personal and appropriately private matter. But as a medical doctor, I am compelled to bring these research findings to light for the public – especially if it has the potential to save a person’s life. When it comes to any type of cancer, my patients and the public at large always want to know what they can DO to reduce their risk. Whether those efforts are through diet, exercise, not smoking or other ways, this latest finding can be added to the list of lifestyle modifications I would give every patient – and their partner.
So what evidence does this ejaculation study provide that gives hope to the reduction of a man’s prostate cancer risk? The data is compiled from the study of 32,000 subjects who were followed for 18 years. After potential co-founders (circumstances that could alter the study results) were accounted for, the risk of prostate cancer was 20 percent lower in men who ejaculated at least 21 times per month than in men who ejaculated four to seven times per month. The summary of the lead researcher, Dr. Jennifer Rider, was this: “Safe sexual activity could be good for prostate health.”
The last major report on this study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2004 – more than a decade ago. It too concluded that a higher-than-average ejaculation frequency might be associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer. But Dr. Rider points out that it is the strength of this new study data that make it so promising. These strengths include the fact that the data are long-term (18 years), involve a large number of participants (32,000), and are specific about the ejaculation information presented.
For urologists, this data makes sense. As is the case with the urinary bladder and kidneys, drinking enough water helps to flush these organs of toxins that can build up and cause damage – including cancer. This ejaculation research may highlight some similar comparisons – frequent “flushing out” of the prostate gland may help to rid it of toxins that too can build up and cause damage. Now, the method by which my patients, their partners and the public set about achieving these ejaculation benchmarks for prostate cancer risk reduction? I’ll leave that entirely up to you.
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