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Is there a link between prostate cancer and sex?

Opinion & Analysis
Let’s talk prostate cancer, spread the word, support prostate cancer research, and encourage early detection and let’s keep advocating for improved cancer care. Together we can make a difference in the fight against prostate cancer.

HAVE you ever heard about the claim that having more sex and ejaculating more reduces the risk of prostate cancer. This is a health tip that may sound pretty good to many men. Have more sex, or masturbate more and you might lower your odds of getting prostate cancer. Could it be true?

Over the years there’s been growing interest in establishing a link between sex and prostate cancer. This September, Talk Cancer Zim continues on its mandate to raise awareness  on cancer, educating men  within the country about prostate cancer and one of the frequently asked questions is: Can sex lower prostate cancer risk?

What does science really say?

Since the prostate is a reproductive organ that produces fluid for ejaculation, researchers have long wondered if sex can influence a man’s risk of prostate cancer. There are some researches that have been carried out and found a possible link between ejaculation and lower chances of prostate cancer. The best evidence so far comes from a 2016 analysis of about 32 000 men over 18 years. This analysis found that people who ejaculated at least 21 days every month had a 20% lower chance of getting prostate cancer compared with those who ejaculated four to seven times a month.  As you can imagine, this study had some flaws. It relied on people to remember how much they ejaculated, it was a survey rather than analysing of the participants’ ongoing sexual activity over time. So let’s face it, memory isn’t perfect . It also seems how you ejaculate doesn’t really matter — sex, masturbation or wet dreams.

Unlocking the hidden

While research is promising in this area, there’s a lot scientists need to learn. Scientists don’t know if ejaculation during sex and masturbation have the same benefits. It’s also unclear why ejaculation may help the prostate. Health experts aren’t sure, some believe that it can flush out harmful chemicals that might build up in semen. Scientists also don’t know how much sex is considered optimal for one to reduce the risk of prostate. 

Additionally, these kind of theories can put a mental strain on men. While some men in Zimbabwe have normalised the pressures that come with trying to satisfy their sexual partners, others resort to sex performance enhancement substances such as testosterone boosters or supplements to enhance libido, sexual stamina or overall sex performance. There are a lot of concerns raised regarding their potential impact on prostate health and they are not recommended.

On the other hand, some studies have not established the benefit of having more sex. The results are, therefore, inconclusive. Some researchers conclude that age is a more significant factor with regards to risk than ejaculation frequency.

The bottomline

Researchers are still studying the connection between ejaculation and prostate health. So doctors may not be ready to write prescriptions for more sex yet. Sex can be a wonderful part of healthy relationships and can have positive psychosocial benefits. So there is no downside to increased sex, there’s likely no harm in doing it more often, but we would want to emphasise that people should practise safe sex, avoid using sex enhancers and stay faithful to one partner because HIV/Aids still exists.

Most things that raise a man’s odds, like age and family history of the disease aren’t things that they can change. That’s a job many men are willing to take on. However, controversy exists because no conclusive evidence demonstrates that the more a man ejaculates the lower his chances of getting prostate cancer. Simply put, researchers and scientists  have not reached a consensus on whether more sex protects men from prostate cancer and to what extent.

Take home advice

Our mandate as Talk Cancer Zim is to promote awareness on prostate cancer and advocate for regular screening. Men should prioritise regular check-ups and conversations with healthcare professionals. Routine screening and discussions about personal risk can help identify early signs of prostate cancer, significantly improving outcomes.

We can empower men to be proactive in safeguarding their prostate health. Instead of relying on unproven theories, here are some tips to stay on top of your prostate health:

  • Various types of exercises can be helpful for men with prostate problems, kegel exercises can strengthen and train your pelvic floor muscles to help control urination. Exercises such as walking, jogging, swimming and tennis are also beneficial, regular exercise pares your  risk of other conditions such as heart disease, stroke and other types of cancer as well.
  • Consume whole grain bread, pasta and cereals.
  • Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables, they are full of phytonutrients and antioxidants that help your prostate cells to stay healthy.
  • Limit your consumption of red meat, including beef, pork, lamb, goat and processed meats
  • Choose healthful fats such as olive oil, nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans) and avocados, limit saturated fats from dairy and other animal products, avoid trans fats which are found in many fast and packaged foods.
  • Avoid sugar-sweetened drinks, eat sweets as an occasional treat.
  • Cut down on salt, choose foods low in sodium. Limit the use of canned, processed and frozen foods.
  • Cut down or cut out alcohol
  • Quit smoking
  • Go and get screened

Let’s talk prostate cancer, spread the word, support prostate cancer research, and encourage early detection and let’s keep advocating for improved cancer care. Together we can make a difference in the fight against prostate cancer.

Michelle Chishamiso Madzudzo is the founder and chief executive officer of Talk Cancer Zim. She is a radiation therapist by profession.

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