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New data confirm an observation from several years ago that men who ejaculate more often are less likely to develop prostate cancer. The optimal frequency for sex to completion seems to be 21 times a month.

About 10 years ago, all the late night comedians were making jokes about studies that found that the more often men ejaculate semen, the less likely they are to suffer prostate cancer. A new study presented at the May conference of the American Urological Association provides further data that confirm that safe sex seems to prevent, or at least to forestall, the need for treatment of prostate cancer.

It is a lot better to prevent prostate cancer than to treat it, since treatment of this disease almost always involves surgical removal of the gland.

A New Study Of Prostate Cancer Risk

The new data come from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which has been following 32 thousand men, most of them physicians and other health professionals, for 18 years. The men in the study have opened their medical records to ongoing examination, and provide detailed information about their lifestyle choices.

When the participants in the study were recruited in 1992, they were asked:

  • How many times a week they ejaculated at ages 20 to 29, and
  • How many times a week they ejaculated at ages 40 to 49, and
  • How many times a week they ejaculated in previous year,

from which the researchers computed a lifetime average of weekly ejaculations. By the time men reach their forties, most ejaculate (through either sexual intercourse or masturbation) 8 to 12 times a month. Only 8.8 percent ejaculate as often as 21 times a month.

The average age of men in the study currently is 59 years. At this point, of the nearly 32 thousand men in the study, 3384 have already developed prostate cancer, and 384 cases have been fatal.
Frequent seminal emission is not a guarantee against prostate cancer, but men who release semen at least 21 times a month are at least 20 percent less likely to develop the disease at any time during their lives. As men get older, sexual activity makes a bigger and bigger difference.

Just How Important Is Sex To Prostate Health?

An earlier study of the same group of men found even starker differences in cancer rates among men according to age. In 2004, researchers studying the same group of men found that:

  • Men who ejaculated at least 21 times a month during their twenties were 11 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer than men who only ejaculated four to seven times a month.
  • Men who ejaculated at least 21 times a month during their forties were 32 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer than men who only ejaculated four to seven times a month.
  • Men who ejaculated at least 21 times a month during their fifties and sixties were 49 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer than men who only ejaculated four to seven times a month.

The older a man gets, the bigger a beneficial difference frequent sexual activity, to climax, seems to make in prostate health. A study in Japan also found that:

  • Men who had more sexual partners before marriage were less likely to develop prostate cancer than men who had fewer sexual partners.
  • Men who had more sex in their thirties and forties were up to 80 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer.
  • Men who enjoyed sex less had prostate cancer more often, and
  • Men who had more sexually transmitted diseases (presumably because they had more sex) were less likely to develop prostate cancer.

Is Any Kind Of Sex Protective Against Prostate Cancer?

The studies of ejaculation and prostate cancer find that "ejaculation" is the appropriate measurement of protection against cancer. The studies do not distinguish heterosexual intercourse, homosexual intercourse, variations in intercourse, or masturbation. It seems to be emptying semen out of the prostate that confers the beneficial effect (although in the Japanese study, masturbation was not found to be related to prostate health).

There are a number of factors that don't seem to have an effect on prostate health.

  • Using condoms doesn't effect cancer rates.
  • The female partner's choice of contraception does not affect cancer rates.
  • Nocturnal emissions ("wet dreams") don't seem to count, although that could be because sexually active men have fewer nocturnal emissions.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases in female partners do not affect a man's risk of prostate cancer, although certain bacterial infections in either female or male partners can trigger prostate infections.

What About Masturbation?

The reality is, at least in the Western world, masturbation is a very common practice. A survey in Australia found that 95 percent of men and 89 percent of women do it. Younger men tend to masturbate more often than older men. It is common for men past puberty and under 30 to masturbate five or more times a week, and it is not unusual for men to masturbate multiple times a day.  

Why should masturbation make a difference?

The prostate can be thought of as a mixing and holding vessel. It receives live sperm from the testes, and mixes them with a high-sugar source of nourishment in the form of semen. The sperm can live on the fructose sugars provided in the semen as they travel across the cervix to the fallopian tubes to reach and fertilize the egg. 

Semen is secreted from vesicles that also release carbohydrates that make it sticky so the sperm travel for up to a day or so to reach the egg. These carbohydrates can trap toxic, carcinogenic chemicals that cause genetic damage in the lining of the prostate, but only if they stay in contact with the lining of the gland for too long.

Vigorous release of semen causes these secretions to flow out of their tiny holding containers, the vesicles, into the fluid and out with ejaculation. Sexual intercourse with a vigorous climax "detoxifies" the prostate so cancer-causing compounds are less likely to build up.

Which Men Benefit The Most From Frequent Sexual Release?

The benefits of frequent emissions seem to be greater in men who smoke. Ejaculation carries away carcinogens from tobacco smoke from the lining of the prostate, although it would not have a similar benefit for other organs. Some studies have looked at the possibility that frequent ejaculation would also remove toxic heavy metals, although studies have been inconclusive.

Sex is healthy for older men. In addition to "detoxifying," it also seems to stimulate the release of growth hormone. Men who have more sex and who keep having sex have less cancer, have better muscle tone, and probably more reasons to live as they get older. A healthy sex life doesn't just make life more worthwhile, it also extends life and protects against disease.

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