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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Can having sex 21 times a month reduce the risk of prostate issues?

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Claim: Men need to have sex 21 times monthly to avoid prostate issues.

Full Text

Prostate problems are unique to men because they have to do with a peculiar reproductive organ. There are three types of prostate problems: inflammation (prostatitis), enlarged prostate (BPH, or benign prostatic hyperplasia), and prostate cancer.

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Prostate cancer is the abnormal and uncontrollable growth of the prostate (a small walnut-shaped gland in males that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm).

Recently, a video was shared by Naija (@Naija_PR) of a medical practitioner identified as Dr Ken asserting that a healthy man should engage in sexual activities 21 times a month to avoid prostate issues.

From the details of the one-minute, 23-second video, we deduced that the footage was from a radio program “The Discourse” on Classic FM, 97.3. The man emphasized the need to optimize sexual activity, and if need be, men can have multiple sexual partners to meet their needs monthly.

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“It is a concept in Physiology; if you don’t use it, you lose it. The only exercise your prostate gland gets is during erection, and that erection comes with sexual activity. So, the study is abundantly clear that a man in healthy shape should be able to have sexual interaction 21 times a month to avoid prostate issues, prostate cancer and cardiovascular issues. If you don’t exercise the gland, it swells on you. It becomes enlarged, and when it becomes enlarged, that is a precursor to cancer.”

As of Friday, 9 February, the post had garnered over 235,000 views, 805 reposts, 241 quotes and 2,320 likes.

The controversial nature of this assertion and the need to provide the public with accurate information, especially on health issues, prompted DUBAWA to investigate it.

Verification

A keyword search led to an article by the Urology Care Foundation, analyzing a study that sampled 32,000 men for 18 years. This study found that men who ejaculated the most (at least 21 times a month) had a 20 percent lower chance of prostate cancer than those who ejaculated four to seven times a month.

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The foundation, however, noted that ejaculation may or may not affect the risk of prostate cancer. While it helps the prostate by flushing out harmful chemicals that build up in semen, it does not automatically mean it protects against prostate cancer. This is because there may be other factors like a healthy lifestyle. The foundation noted the need for more research to know for sure whether more ejaculation reduces the risk of prostate cancer or not.

An article by Healthline discussing this study noted some of its limitations. One of these is the fact that the study relied on self-reported answers (once in 1992 and once in 2010) about how often these subjects ejaculated each month and whether they developed prostate cancer. This means that the results could be skewed by the subject’s memories or awareness of their habits.

The article also noted that the study didn’t specify whether the recorded ejaculation resulted from sexual intercourse with a partner or masturbation, and the reason for emission may play a role in any potential benefit.

A Medical News Today article also addresses the relationship between frequent ejaculation and the risk of prostate issues. The article noted that it remains unclear whether more or less ejaculation makes men of all ages likely to develop prostate cancer because of conflicting findings from different studies over the years, which calls for more research.

This article analyzed a 2004 study that surveyed more than 29,000 men on their ejaculation frequency over eight years. The earlier mentioned 2016 study was a follow-up to the original 2004 study. The results of these studies supported the assertion that men who ejaculate more frequently may be less likely to develop prostate cancer than those who ejaculate less often.

On the contrary, a 2009 study found that while frequent masturbation might reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men aged 50 and above, it might increase the risk among men in their 20s and 30s. A more recent study in 2017 also found that a higher ejaculation frequency in males in their 30s was protective, but the effect was not the same for males in their 20s and 40s.

A 2016 literature review concluded that masturbation, frequency of ejaculation, and age all affect a male’s risk of prostate cancer, and there is not enough evidence to confirm how these factors might link together.

Similarly, a 2018 meta-analysis of 22 studies on sexual activity and prostate cancer risk found that a moderate ejaculation frequency of two to four times per week was significantly associated with a lower prostate cancer risk. This gives a frequency of about eight to 16 ejaculations per month, which is less than the frequency being promoted by the claimant.

What are the risk factors for prostate cancer?

While it is true ejaculation rate and age are risk factors for prostate cancer, as highlighted by the above studies, it is important to note and be aware of other factors that cause or increase the risk of prostate cancer as this can help males understand their likelihood of developing it.

These factors include age (as men get older, their risk of developing prostate cancer increases. Around 60 percent of prostate cancer cases affect males over 65.

On race, it is noted that African American males are more likely to develop prostate cancer than white males, while Hispanic and Asian American males are less likely to develop prostate cancer than non-Hispanic white males. On geography, prostate cancer rates are higher in North America, Europe, and Australia than in areas such as Asia, Africa, and Central and South America.

Other common factors include family history and genetic factors such as changes in the BRCA genes, which also increase the risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer; and exposure to chemicals, with some findings suggesting that Agent Orange, which military forces used in the Vietnam war, may have links with prostate cancer).

Experts Opinion

We spoke to a gynecologist, Jeremiah Agim, who advised us to speak to a urologist but gave us his opinion. He noted that there are several causes of prostate issues aside from ejaculation, and just tackling ejaculation will not make much difference.

“There are many risk factors for prostate cancer. These range from age and family history (inherited gene mutation) to lifestyle. Even infection and inflammation of the prostate have been implicated, an environmental carcinogen (e.g. bisphenol from plastic), exposure to ionizing radiation, obesity, and hormonal level (sex hormone and others). Ejaculation frequency is just one of these risk factors; therefore, I don’t think an increase in ejaculation frequency with an increase in exposure to other risk factors will make much difference in the development of prostate cancer.”

He also faulted the claimant’s law of physiology about prostate use or exercise, saying: “I will fault his concept of use and disuse. If you want to look at it in that direction, the prostate should atrophy, i.e. become small and not become cancerous when not in use, and it should swell when used. Also, it is not only during sexual activity that a man has an erection. Most erections happen during deep sleep. If you remember your biology class on evolution, Jean Lamarck’s theory of use and disuse. He even said such gain in function can even be inherited.”

Speaking on available studies, he said, “If you go back to those studies you said you came across, one of the explanations by the authors for increased ejaculation frequency as a protective factor for prostate cancer is not from use and disuse. They explained that ejaculation removes carcinogens which would have remained and accumulated in the prostate, thereby increasing the risk of prostate cancer.”

We reached out to a Urologist, Head of the Surgery Department at the University of Medical Sciences (UNIMED) Ondo State, Olurotimi Ogundunniyi, who dismissed this assertion as a mere opinion, not a scientific fact.

“We all saw the video and discussed it on our forum. We lamented that when there is no information, people spread rumors. There are risk factors for prostate cancer, like age and family history. It is of recent, people have started thinking if there is a link between sex and prostate cancer.

“In the past, people thought frequent sex and infection was a risk factor, but there was no research to back it up. Is there a study to show that revered fathers suffer prostate cancer more? No. These are just speculations. There are papers here and there suggesting this. At best, it is the realm of being studied, not science. I assure you he was not speaking science, just his opinion,” Mr. Ogundunniyi said.

We also spoke to another urologist, Emmanuel Adugba, the medical director at Rock Creek Care Hospital Abuja, who noted that not much has been discussed in this area, but he believes it is a matter of sentiments.

“That area, not much has been discussed. Anything sex, people tend to exaggerate it. It is subjected to sentiments and emotions. For me, I think of harder issues than sentimental issues,” he said.

He explained that if frequent sex was the solution to prostrate issues, then clergypersons who do not have sex or celibate people should account for more of the patients of prostate cancer. At the same time, people who indulge in more sexual activities because of their many wives and concubines should not have prostate cancer, but this is not the case.

Verdict: MISLEADING! Available studies suggest the narrative has conflicting findings, hence the need for more research. Experts have also dismissed this as a scientific fact because it is still being studied.

Conclusion

While there are different benefits to having sex or frequent ejaculation, and a few studies suggest a relationship between this and prostate cancer, there is no clear link between the two. Available studies so far recommend further study on the issue, and experts have dismissed this, noting the issue is still being studied.

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