For many decades before the 21st century, people passed around a lot of unfounded myths to discourage the act of masturbation. While some myths are pretty scary, some are downright hilarious.
Take for instance the false tales that masturbation shrinks genitals, makes men cheat, causes infertility, mental illness, and also makes hair grow in odd places.
For men struggling with these issues, these myths won’t only cause more anxiety, it will also make them feel extremely guilty over a perfectly normal and healthy sexual act.
If not for the coming of the early 2000s which brought along with it different research and studies showing that sexual acts (including masturbation and the non-sexual wet dreams) that produce ejaculations have potential health benefits.
Health benefits that may see you enjoy a lower risk of having prostate cancer (PCa) in your later years.
Want to know the interesting things that science is saying concerning ejaculation frequency, sex, and masturbation; and how that could lower your PCa risk?
Let’s explore together.
What Is The Prostate?
It’s unfortunate that most times when the name “prostate” comes up, it’s always within the context of cancer. This organ by itself is extremely important to a man’s healthy sexual function.
The prostate gland is a walnut-sized organ that lies just beneath the bladder and sits across the rectum.
It is located deep within the groin at the base of the penis and it surrounds the urethra, the duct (or tube) that transports urine from the bladder through the penis.
The prostate is only found in males and its main function is to produce the proteinous fluid that mixes up with sperm cells to form the semen.
The gland also regulates the viscosity of the semen and during ejaculation, the muscles of the prostate forcefully press semen into the urethra and make sure the liquid gets discharged.
Masturbation & Prostate Cancer: What’s The Link?
It is the prostate role in the production of semen that led scientists to think there could be a possible link between prostate cancer (PCa) and masturbation.
Before we proceed, it’s important you know that currently there’s no scientific evidence linking masturbation and prostate cancer.
But in the meantime, the medical community is going with one theory because of the little that has been discovered from some recent studies.
The theory explains that any activity – whether it is sex, nocturnal emissions, or masturbation – that makes you flush out old semen help prevent stagnation and keeps the prostate clean and fresh.
That way, toxins that could lead to PCa as you grow older, are prevented from building up.
Ejaculation Frequency & Prostate Cancer: What Has Science Discovered So Far?
As the years go by, more evidence is coming up to support the connection between ejaculation and reduced risk of prostate cancer.
But of all the researches, three large studies from the US, Australia, and China made the best case yet.
The questions posed to participants include the number of times they ejaculated and other related questions. The very act that produced the discharge didn’t matter – wet dreams and masturbation were also included.
Next, the scientists tracked how these men fared (in different age groups) over the years. At the end of the studies, the different research teams found out that basically, the more the participants ejaculated per month, the lower their likelihood of developing prostate cancer.
This made experts wonder about what could be the reason for ejaculation helping prostate health. Some like Dr. Edward Giovannucci, Editor-in-chief of Cancer Causes and Control, believes that,
“…in men who have not ejaculated in a long time, seminal fluid undergoes oxidative changes that potentially, at least, render it toxic to the prostate.
There may be benefits from not letting these fluids stagnate but instead clearing them out periodically.”
Another expert and urologist, Dr. Stephen Freedland, a director at the Cancer Center at Cedars-Sinai hospital had similar opinions,
“The hypothesis is that ejaculations, by helping the prostate to empty regularly, prevent clogging of the ducts in the prostate, which can lead to inflammation. Therefore, by preventing inflammation, it would lower prostate cancer risk,”
Despite all these expert opinions giving plausible reasons for the association between ejaculation and prostate cancer, Dr. Giovannucci (and also other doctors) is quick to point out that,
“At this point, this (any explanation given) is based more on intuition than strong scientific evidence.”
Puzzling Facts That Remain Unclear To Date
While it’s true that scientific studies are showing a lot of promise, there’s still more on the subject of ejaculation and PCa that remain unclear to date.
Some of them are:
- Research has shown that frequent ejaculation is connected one way or another to prostate cancer, but why that is, no one knows and neither is there solid proof to back it up.
Some opine that maybe men who ejaculate often usually lead a healthier lifestyle that could be reducing their odds.
- For now, scientists can’t say for certain whether ejaculation during masturbation or sex offers equal benefits.
What we know currently is that the composition of semen for each of these sexual acts is different. For instance, semen released during sex contains a higher level of sperm and vital chemicals.
- Ejaculation may protect against lower-risk cancers, but it offers no defense against the most advanced or deadly forms of prostate cancer. And nobody knows why.
- Not every research has uncovered a benefit. The three studies we mentioned garnered more attention because of their huge number of participants and their lengthy years.
Some smaller researches didn’t show a positive result like the other big three. One small study saw no beneficial effect.
Another showed that frequent masturbation (including sex) in younger men actually increases their risk of prostate cancer, but decreases the risk of the disease in men aged 50 and above.
The Harvard Ejaculation Study
The Harvard ejaculation study is by far the largest research (in terms of length of years) that has ever been undertaken to examine the effect of ejaculation on prostate cancer.
In terms of number of participants, it comes second after Sichuan University ejaculation study which has 55,000+ human subjects.
The Harvard study offers the strongest proof to date of the beneficial role that frequent ejaculation plays in preventing prostate cancer, particularly in low-risk cases.
From their findings, published in the medical journal, European Urology, the researchers shared this interesting bit:
“more frequent ejaculation in the absence of risky sexual behaviours 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 tumours, even though it appears to be less strongly associated with aggressive disease”.
Now, let’s take a closer look at this impressive study which started in 1992 and spanned nearly two decades (18 years to be exact).
To conduct an extra 10-year follow-up of an initial research that began in 1986. But this time, greater emphasis is placed on the link between prostate cancer and the number of times a man releases.
The Team Behind the Research
This research took place in the United States.
And it was carried out by a team of researchers consisting of different academicians from Harvard Medical School, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Boston University School of Public Health.
The project was financed with grants from the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) Young Investigator Award and funds from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
The research was a cohort study collecting data and following up on male health practitioners from 1992 to 2010.
In case you are wondering, cohort studies refer to medical researches where participants are followed for a period of time, and samples or data are collected at intervals.
These types of research are usually conducted to investigate what causes a disease and to discover how suspected risk factors affect health outcomes later on in life.
Three real-life examples of other popular cohort studies are:
“The joint effects of sleep quality and sleep duration on the development of coronary heart disease“
“How exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) early in life affects obesity levels in children later in life”
“Cohort study of smoking and lung cancer incidence in rural prefecture, Japan”
For this particular ejaculation cohort research, the survey questions vary to track multiple health outcomes.
However, the focus of the study authors was on the link between the ejaculation frequency of participants at different age groups and how that affects their risk of developing prostate cancer.
Research Design, Participants, and Setting
In 1992, researchers took specific answers of 31,925 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS for short), a study that Harvard started in 1986 to look at the relations between men’s lifestyles and their resulting health outcomes.
The answers were taken to the 1992 Harvard ejaculation study questionnaire and evaluated to see whether the number of times a man release affects his chances of getting PCa.
At the beginning of the HPFS study in 1986, the age range of the men fall between 40 and 75 and every single one of them was a health professional. The participants were asked questions concerning their lifestyle and medical history and the information was collected every two years.
During the 1992 Harvard 10-year follow-up study, when the researchers finished evaluating the HPFS data, they proceeded to seek for more data from 29,342 men.
The ages of participants this time was between 46 and 81 and they were asked to provide data concerning the average number of times they ejaculated per month within these ages:
- Age 20 – 29 years
- Age 40 – 49 years and
- The year before the Harvard study
For the study, all ejaculations counted – be it release from sexual intercourse, masturbation, or wet dreams.
In the course of follow-up, 3,839 participants were diagnosed with prostate cancer and the average number of ejaculations per month dropped with age.
Also, the proportion of participants averaging 13 or more ejaculations in a month was 57% at age 20-29 but decreased to 32% when they entered 40-49.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, here’s a quick summary of the detailed result which many men are sure to love.
Outcome for Men Ejaculating 21 Times or More in a Month
Compared with participants who ejaculated 4 to 7 times per month and excluding those struggling with erectile dysfunction, there was…
- A 20% decrease in prostate cancer risk for men aged 20-29.
- An 18% reduction in PCa risk for men aged 40-49.
- A 26% lower risk in PCa risk for men aged 50 and above whose ejaculation frequency per month for the previous year is 21 times or higher.
- A reduced PCa risk for men aged 40-49 who ejaculated 13 to 20 times in a month.
- A similar though smaller decrease in PCa risk for participants of all ages whose average ejaculation rate per month is 13 times or more.
Outcome for Men Whose Ejaculation Frequency per Month Is More Than 13 Times
Compared with those releasing 4-7 times in a month, there was…
- A 25% lower chance of developing “low-risk” PCa for ejaculation at age 20-29.
- A 28% reduced risk of developing “low-risk” PCa for ejaculation at age 40-49.
- A 25% decreased chance of getting “low-risk” PCa at age 50 and beyond.
- A 27% lower chance of developing “intermediate-risk” PCa at age 20-29.
- No notable differences were discovered for ejaculation frequency at advanced ages and “intermediate–risk” PCa or for any age group and “high-risk” PCa.
Here is the summary in the researchers’ own words:
“We evaluated whether ejaculation frequency throughout adulthood is related to prostate cancer risk in a large US-based study.
We found that men reporting higher compared to lower ejaculatory frequency in adulthood were less likely to be subsequently diagnosed with prostate cancer.”
The Australian Ejaculation Study
In its July 2003 edition, the British Journal of Urology (BJU International) published for the first time an ejaculation study conducted in Australia.
Similar to the Harvard research result for American men, the Australian study also came to remarkably similar conclusions:
That Australians who released more often (especially between ages 20 to 50) are less likely to develop PCa later on in life.
For this study, 2,338 men were recruited and the focus of the researchers was on how sexual factors contribute to the development of prostate cancer before reaching age 70.
And just like the US-based Harvard investigation, the Australian researchers assessed total ejaculations instead of sexual intercourse itself. Concerning the areas the study team looked into, the lead researcher, Professor Giles said,
“We looked at a number of different aspects of sexual activity including the number of sexual partners, the frequency of ejaculation, as well as the number of times men ejaculated at different ages, from their twenties through to their fifties.
The study (also) looked at ejaculation in the context of intercourse with another person, masturbation, nocturnal emissions, etc…”
What Inspired the Study?
Two things motivated this study. The first is previous studies suggesting that high ejaculation rates increase the risk of cancer only covered emissions from sexual intercourse.
However, the researchers felt to be able to get a better result, a comprehensive study in this area has to cover all activities that produce emissions – sex, masturbation, foreplay, wet dreams, use of visual cues, etc.
The second reason why the Australian scientists embarked on the research was because of studies done around that time which linked breast cancer with how often a woman lactates.
In an interview, Professor Giles commented that,
“The prostate gland is similar to a breast in that it’s an organ destined to secrete a fluid.
It occurred to us that, if the seminal fluid is not flushed out of the ducts sufficiently, then chemical changes may occur which may in due course lead to an increased risk of cancer.”
To look for the connection between prostate cancer and the number of times of ejaculation in males below 70 years of age.
There were also attempts to investigate if the connection was age-dependent by evaluating ejaculatory frequencies in the participants’ 3rd, 4th, and 5th decades.
The Team Behind the Research
The study team was led by Professor Graham Giles, the then Director of the Cancer Epidemiology Centre in Melbourne, Australia. Funds were provided from a grant given by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).
Additional financial support was provided by the E.J. Whitten Foundation and the Tattersall’s foundation while infrastructure was from The Cancer Council Victoria.
The project researchers come from different organizations such as The University of Western Australia, Dunedin School of Medicine in Otago, New Zealand, The European Institute of Oncology, and The Cancer Council Victoria.
The research is a case-control population-based study of PCa in Australia. A case-control or case-referent study is a form of observational study where two existing groups with differing outcomes are collated and compared.
As for population-based, that means subjects involved in the research come from a fixed or defined geographic region.
In this study, Professor Giles and his team questioned 1,079 PCa patients and compared their replies with 1,259 healthy males of similar age.
Research Design, Participants, and Setting
This research involved two classes of men – those already diagnosed with PCa (1,079) and men without the disease (1,259) making a total of 2,338 participants.
The men were picked from three places in Australia (Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney) and were all under 70 years. The questionnaire shared, focused mainly on ejaculation regardless of how it occurred (wet dreams, masturbation, intercourse with a partner, etc.)
Questions asked in the survey include:
- Age at first ejaculation
- Highest number of discharge ever experienced within 24 hours
- Average number of times that they had ejaculated per week in their most sexually active year in each of three decades of age (i.e. third, fourth, and fifth).
- Average number of ejaculation per week during the most sexually active years (i.e. in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th decades)
- Number of sex partners before and after clocking 30 years of age
To prevent less-than-honest answers and ensure the privacy of participants, three things were done:
- Questions relating to sexually transmitted diseases were not asked.
- Participants filled the questionnaire by themselves.
- After filling out their answers, subjects are required to seal their questionnaires in unmarked envelopes before returning them to the interviewer.
How the Interviews Went
Most times, the interviews were conducted at participants’ homes. After the preliminaries, a sexual history survey form would be given to the participant.
If there is anything unclear to the respondent, he can ask the interviewer but to preserve the integrity of the survey, an interviewer is only allowed to respond to questions relating to definitions.
To make the survey questions easily understood by participants so as to eliminate the need for more clarification, plain-language terms and sentences were used.
Also, before the final draft of the questionnaire was approved, focus groups were consulted to make sure the questions were comprehensible, acceptable, and won’t be ignored.
The research team found out that men who ejaculated every day when they were in their 20s had their risk of getting prostate cancer in later years reduced by one-third. The protection didn’t stop at this age group alone, it also extended to the remaining age groups.
Overall, men whose average ejaculations in a week range between 4.6 to 7 times were 36% less likely to get PCa before age 70, unlike men who averaged 2.3 to 3 ejaculations in a week.
Other important findings from the research are revealed in a statement from the lead researcher, Professor Giles:
“Our research indicates that there is no association between prostate cancer and the number of sexual partners, which argues against infection as a cause of prostate cancer in the Australian population.
We also found no association between maximum number of ejaculations in a 24 hour period and prostate cancer. Therefore, it is not men’s ability to ejaculate that seems to be important.”
Talking about what they think could be the reason for the above result, the research team commented,
“For this reason, our explanations are fairly speculative – one possible reason for the protective effects of ejaculation may be that frequent ejaculation prevents carcinogens building up in the prostatic ducts.
If the ducts are flushed out, there may be less build–up and damage to the cells that line them. However, this is only one study and our findings require further corroboration in other studies.”
Sichuan University (China) Ejaculation Study
To get to the truth behind the effect of ejaculation on Prostate cancer, five lead researchers (all doctors) and a host of other scientists in China undertook the daunting task of analyzing the data of 55,490 men.
The data was collated from 22 prior studies and the research result was published in the August 2018 edition of the Journal of Sexual Medicine (JSM). Just like the Harvard and Australian studies, the Chinese researchers had similar findings, but with an added twist.
The result showed that the risk of men developing a tumor falls the more their sexual frequency increases. Not so surprising, masturbation too was discovered to deliver similar benefits.
Things got a little interesting in the area of number of female sexual partners and how early a man should have sex. The research findings show that when it comes to the number of female lovers a man can take, less is better and healthier.
And for the age at first intercourse, it seems the older a man is the first time he has sex, the lesser his chances of getting prostate cancer later on.
Here’s a quick look at the Chinese ejaculation research.
To determine the link between ejaculation frequency, age during first intercourse, number of female sex partners, and the risk of prostate cancer.
The Team Behind the Research
The five lead researchers involved in the project were all from Sichuan University, China. Funding and infrastructure were provided by West China Hospital, Sichuan University, and other donors.
The research comprises of 1 cohort study as well as 21 case-control studies.
Research Design, Participants, and Setting
A total of 55,490 men were involved in this analysis. 40,514 were controls and 14,976 were patients.
The researchers discovered that “moderate ejaculation” (releasing 2 to 4 times a week) reduces a man’s chances of getting prostate cancer by 10% and this risk didn’t drop when ejaculation frequency went up.
Additionally, the research team discovered that men who waited to have sex at a later age had their PCa risk “decreased by 4% for every 5-year delay in age at first intercourse.”
Also, the chances of PCa increased by 10% for every 10 female sex partners the participant had.
Despite the results of the Chinese meta-analysis (a study that combines the outcomes of several scientific studies), the researchers warned people not to jump to conclusions because correlation does not imply causation.
There is still no definite proof that an increase in ejaculation frequency can help avert prostate cancer. Nonetheless, scientists are leaning more towards that theory, for now, because a few large studies have shown a positive connection.
When commenting on the strength and limitation of the study in the JSM journal, the Chinese researchers advised that the results “should be interpreted with caution because most included studies used case-control design.”
Case-control design meaning participants who have an outcome of interest or a disease (cases) are compared with participants who don’t have the outcome or disease (controls).
The study now looks back in each group to evaluate how frequent exposure to a risk factor determines the association between the disease and the risk factor.
The Bottom Line
Science and technology keep bringing valuable knowledge and innovation that doctors are using to fight prostate cancer, and while that is good news, the best way of dealing with any deadly and common disease should be doing what you can to lower your odds of developing it at all.
You may not be able to do anything about most factors (like family history and age) that raises a man’s odds of getting the disease. But increasing how often you cum? That’s a task a lot of men will gladly take on.
- Bhattacharya, S. (2020). Frequent ejaculation may protect against cancer. Retrieved 20 October 2020, from https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn4861-frequent-ejaculation-may-protect-against-cancer/
- Bradley, M. (2020). Handy way to beat cancer. Retrieved 20 October 2020, from https://www.theage.com.au/lifestyle/handy-way-to-beat-cancer-20091123-iu3r.html
- Charnow, J. (2020). Prostate Cancer Risk Lower in Men Who Ejaculate More – Renal and Urology News. Retrieved 20 October 2020, from https://www.renalandurologynews.com/home/news/urology/prostate-cancer/prostate-cancer-risk-lower-in-men-who-ejaculate-more/
- Cohort Study – Study Design 101. (2020). Retrieved 20 October 2020, from https://himmelfarb.gwu.edu/tutorials/studydesign101/cohorts.cfm
- Dimitropoulou, P. (2009). Sexual activity and prostate cancer risk in men diagnosed at a younger age. Retrieved 20 October 2020, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19016689/
- Foundation, S. (2020). 5 Ways to Protect Your Prostate — and Yes, Sex Is One of Them. Retrieved 20 October 2020, from https://www.urologyofva.net/articles/category/healthy-living/2809361/5-ways-to-protect-your-prostate-and-yes-sex-is-one-of-them
- Giles, G., Severi, G., English, D., McCredie, M., Borland, R., Boyle, P., & Hopper, J. (2003). Sexual factors and prostate cancer. BJU International, 92(3), 211-216. doi: 10.1046/j.1464-410x.2003.04319.x
- Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. (2020). Retrieved 20 October 2020, from https://sites.sph.harvard.edu/hpfs/
- Jian, Z. (2018). Sexual Activity and Risk of Prostate Cancer: A Dose–Response Meta-Analysis. Journal Of Sexual Medicine, 15(9), P1300-1309. Retrieved from https://www.jsm.jsexmed.org/article/S1743-6095(18)31064-6/abstract#%20
- Marcus, A. (2020). Ejaculation & Prostate Cancer. Retrieved 20 October 2020, from https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=31906
- Morris, S. (2020). Ejaculation and Prostate Cancer: Is There a Connection?. Retrieved 20 October 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/prostate-cancer/ejaculation-prostate-cancer
- Prostate Cancer Risk & Sexual Activity | Cancer Council Victoria. (2020). Retrieved 20 October 2020, from https://www.cancervic.org.au/about/media-releases/new_findings_on_prostate_cancer_risk_and_sexual_activity.html
- Publishing, H. (2020). Ejaculation frequency and prostate cancer – Harvard Health. Retrieved 20 October 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mens-health/ejaculation_frequency_and_prostate_cancer
- Southall, J. (2020). Greater ejaculation frequency may reduce prostate cancer risk. Retrieved 20 October 2020, from https://www.healio.com/news/hematology-oncology/20171222/greater-ejaculation-frequency-may-reduce-prostate-cancer-risk
- Urology, H. (2020). PROSTATE CANCER UPDATE -The James Buchanan Brady Urological Institute – Urology at Hopkins. Retrieved 20 October 2020, from https://urology.jhu.edu/newsletter/prostate_cancer712.php
- Rider, J., 2016. Ejaculation Frequency And Risk Of Prostate Cancer: Updated Results With An Additional Decade Of Follow-Up. [online] European Urology. Available at: <https://www.europeanurology.com/article/S0302-2838(16)00377-8/abstract/ejaculation-frequency-and-risk-of-prostate-cancer-updated-results-with-an-additional-decade-of-follow-up> [Accessed 20 October 2020].