We know that headline will make a lot of men smile. A scientific excuse for more orgasms seems like good news indeed. Not surprisingly, newspapers, tabloids and other media outlets had a field day with this research story:
“Harvard Study Says Men Should Climax 21 Times Per Month to Lower Risk for Prostate Cancer”AskMen, July 5, 2017
“Ejaculating at Least 21 Times a Month Significantly Reduces a Man’s Risk of Prostate Cancer” Daily Mail, July 5, 2017
“Jerking Off Cuts Prostate Cancer Risk By 33 Percent: Male Orgasm Flushes Out Harmful Toxins, Theory Says” Medical Daily, July 5, 2017
“Ejaculating 21 Times a Month Could Save Your Life” Body and Soul, July 4, 2017
How Good is the Science?
A lot of women are probably saying…really? How good is the science?
Let’s start with the researchers themselves. These investigators are solid. The lead author, Jennifer Rider, ScD, is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Another highly regarded author is Edward Giovannucci, MD, ScD, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The other participants were equally prestigious and none of the authors declared a conflict of interest.
This was a large, prospective cohort study involving 51,529 male health professionals (European Urology, Volume 60 Issue 6). They were recruited starting in 1986 and have been followed ever since. The volunteers fill out detailed questionnaires that reveal medical history, lifestyle issues, diet, use of supplements, preventive behaviors and chronic disease risk factors. In 1992 over 30,000 men answered detailed questions about their ejaculation frequency.
Over the course of this long study, 3,839 men developed prostate cancer. In 2004 a preliminary analysis of the Health Professionals Follow-up Study uncovered a:
“statistically significant inverse association between monthly ejaculation frequency and PCa [prostate cancer] risk based on 8 yr of follow-up.”
That finding was published in JAMA (April 7, 2004). They noted at that time that men who reported more than 21 ejaculations a month had a 50% lower risk of developing prostate cancer compared to men who averaged 4 to 7 ejaculations per month.
An additional decade of follow-up concluded:
“More frequent ejaculation in the absence of risky sexual behaviors 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 tumors, even though it appears to be less strongly associated with aggressive disease.”
A much smaller study from Australia (Urologic Oncology, March 27, 2017) also noted an inverse association between ejaculatory frequency and prostate cancer, but described the evidence as “weak.”
A review of the scientific literature published in the Archivio Italiano di Urologia Andrologia (Sept. 30, 2015) concluded that:
“Frequent ejaculation seems to be protective from the development of prostate cancer.”
A Possible Explanation:
Let’s be perfectly honest. The Harvard research is intriguing. These researchers point out:
“While diet and physical activity may provide some promise for secondary prevention, there are no evidence-based recommendations to offer healthy adult men to reduce PCa risk. The few established disease risk factors–age, race, family history, and germline polymorphisms [genetics]–are not modifiable.
“Sexual behaviors represent potential modifiable risk factors and may influence PCa development through a variety of specific mechanisms. One biological mechanism involves prostatic accumulation of potentially carcinogenic secretions, which may create more opportunity for PCa development, sometimes referred to as the prostate stagnation hypothesis.”
It is unlikely that the National Institutes of Health will pay for research to examine the connection between male orgasms and prostate cancer. Whether the prostate stagnation hypothesis will hold up to scrutiny remains to be determined.
We welcome your thoughts on this controversial topic in the comment section below.