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Can Sex Lower Your Risk of Prostate Cancer?

May 24, 2023

Maybe you’ve heard sex can lower stress, boost your immune system, and even strengthen your heart. But men, did you know it may also lower your risk of prostate cancer?

Some experts say yes.

Ryan P. Dorin, MD, chief of urology at The Hospital of Central Connecticut, explains.

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Sex and masturbation may have a protective effect against prostate cancer.

Several studies, going back to 2004, suggest that men who ejaculate more may have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. That could be from sex, masturbation or both.

Does the method matter? Probably not.

“The ‘how’ doesn’t seem as important as ‘how much,’” says Dr. Dorin. “We need more research on all this to know with more certainty. But if more frequent ejaculation does protect against prostate cancer, it probably applies equally to sexual intercourse and masturbation.”

How much sexual activity are we talking about?

It’s still up for debate. However, we do know this:

A 2016 study interviewed men who’d previously been diagnosed with prostate cancer and had prostate surgery. Those who said they ejaculated more than 21 times per month had a lower risk of cancer recurrence than those who checked the box for 4-7 times.

> Related: 5 Common Misconceptions About Prostate Cancer, According to a Urologist

What’s behind the potential benefits?

“When men ejaculate, the prostate gland releases fluid that can potentially flush out toxins from the prostate gland,” says Dr. Dorin. “It’s possible that doing this more regularly helps keep cancer-causing substances at bay too.”

Plus, sexual activity helps improve blood flow to the prostate gland. Biology 101: Blood delivers oxygen and nutrients, while removing waste products. Keeping it moving is key for a healthy prostate — and could be a key to reducing cancer risk too.

Any other secrets to preventing prostate cancer?

These aren’t quite as sexy, but they’re backed by lots more research.

  • Eat a healthy diet: Go for fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean proteins.
  • Get regular exercise: Get that heart rate up, ideally for 75 to 150 minutes per week.
  • Drink less alcohol: For men, the go-to advice is no more than two drinks per day.
  • Swear off smoking: Avoid or get help quitting.
  • Schedule an annual check-up: Your healthcare provider will make sure you’re caught up on prostate cancer screenings.
  • Know your family history: If your father, brother or other close relatives have had prostate cancer, make sure your health team knows about it.

“Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men, second only to skin cancers,” says Dr. Dorin. “Talk to your doctor about how you can protect yourself.”

For men who are at especially high risk, that can mean special testing or earlier screening for prostate cancer to catch it while it’s still curable and prevent serious consequences.

For the rest, who knows? Maybe someday, basic prevention will include a prescription for something a little more intimate.