Dr Philippa Kaye spoke on This Morning about the signs and risk factors of prostate cancer, and suggested those who ejaculate more frequently may be at lower risk – though noted the research is mixed. Prostate Cancer UK says the cancer can develop when cells in the prostate start to grow in an uncontrolled way. Though some prostate cancer grows too slowly to cause any problems or affect how long you live, some prostate cancer grows quickly and is more likely to spread.
Dr Philippa explained: “The prostate is about the size of a walnut and it is a gland that sits surrounding your urethra, which is the tube which carries urine from the bladder out”.
The prostate’s main job is to help make semen, which is the fluid that carries sperm. Macmillan cancer explains: “The urethra carries pee (urine) from the bladder to the penis. The same tube also carries semen, which is the fluid containing sperm. Just behind the prostate is the back passage (rectum).”
The risk of prostate cancer increases with age, especially after age 50.
Dr Philippa said there were a number of other risk factors for the cancer, as well as some behaviors that may help reduce your risk.
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She said: “Interestingly, there is a little bit of evidence – some says yes, some says no – that the more times you ejaculate, potentially, the lower your prostate cancer risk.”
Harvard Health explains: “Since the prostate is a reproductive organ that produces fluid for the ejaculate, researchers have long wondered if sexual factors influence a man’s risk of prostate cancer.”
It says a Harvard study provides good news for sexually active men.
Indeed, an 18-year Harvard study of nearly 30,000 health professionals determined that risk of prostate cancer was reduced by 20 percent for men who ejaculated 21 times a month, compared to men who ejaculated four to seven times a month.
Nonetheless, the Mayo Clinic says: “At this time, there is no conclusive evidence that frequent ejaculation reduces the risk of prostate cancer.
“Some studies have suggested that men with a higher frequency of ejaculations may have a slightly lower risk of prostate cancer. However, this difference appears to be very small. Other studies haven’t supported this conclusion.”
Some prostate cancer treatments can have an effect on orgasms and ejaculation.
Dr Philippa said: “It’s really important that you know what those symptoms are, but also whether or not you are somebody that might be at an increased risk of developing it.”
Indeed, Prostate Cancer UK says: “Prostate cancer that’s contained inside the prostate (called localized prostate cancer or early prostate cancer) doesn’t usually cause any symptoms. That’s why it’s important to know about your risk.
“But some men might have some urinary problems. These can be mild and happen over many years and may be a sign of a benign prostate problem, rather than prostate cancer.”
The NHS says: “It’s not known exactly what causes prostate cancer, although a number of things can increase your risk of developing the condition.”
These include factors such as age, obesity, family history and ethnicity. Indeed, Dr Philippa said: “Your risk is higher if you are older. Prostate cancer is extremely uncommon in people under 50.”
She added “it is two and a half times more common if your father was affected,” so if you have a family history be especially aware of signs.
There is also an increased risk in black men. The doctor said one in four black men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives, and in the UK it is one in eight in men in general. She said “we’re not exactly sure why there is an increased risk in black men” but suggested people be aware of signs and symptoms to catch any that arise in the early stages.
The NHS notes research is ongoing into the links between diet and prostate cancer, and there is “some evidence that a diet high in calcium is linked to an increased risk of developing prostate cancer”.
Having a risk factor, or even several, does not mean that you will get prostate cancer, although it is important to be aware you are at increased risk, and be vigilant for symptoms.