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Can Masturbation Cause Prostate Cancer?

Written by
Dr. R. Y. Langham

February 27, 2024

Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Dianne Steven

Many beliefs about masturbation have arisen throughout the centuries dating back to the beginning of time. Some of them have been true but most of them have only been myths. Some of the more lively masturbation myths included that masturbating could cause you to develop hairy palms, lose hair, height, muscle mass, or weight, cause acne or tiredness, make you go blind, cause you to become a different gender (due to a decrease in testosterone), make you to become physically weak, cause you to go “crazy,” cause your penis to unnaturally curve or shrink, or cause a low sperm count and infertility. These “beliefs” have proven to be false, but what about other beliefs like the belief that masturbation causes prostate cancer? Is the belief that masturbation causes prostate cancer simply another myth or is there some truth to it? If you are wondering if you are an occasional, regular, or chronic masturbator who is curious or worried that your masturbation habits could be putting you at risk of developing prostate cancer, you have come to the right place because this article will clear up the information circling in society that masturbation causes prostate cancer.

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What is Prostate Cancer?

First, let me preface the topic by affirming that prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world, but especially in the US. According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the 2nd most common cancer in men – with 1 in 8 men developing it during their lifetimes. 

This type of cancer is most prevalent in older men (60%) and Black men (37%), however, anyone of any age or race/ethnicity can develop it. Still, prostate cancer tends to be rare in men under 40. Most men who develop prostate cancer receive this diagnosis around the age of 66. 

Prostate cancer occurs when malignant cells invade a man’s prostate gland, which is a part of his reproductive system. A prostate is a small, walnut-shaped gland that only occurs in males, and produces the semen (fluid) that nourishes and allows them to travel easier to the penis for ejaculation. 

A man with prostate cancer may experience bloody urine or semen, or sexual dysfunction (i.e., erectile dysfunction (ED), painful ejaculation, impotence, etc.). Many “types” of prostate cancer progress slowly and are localized to the prostate gland. These “types” of prostate cancer typically do not require intensive treatment(s) – with some not requiring any treatment. 

But even though various “types” of prostate cancer grow slowly, and may only require minimal treatment(s), or no treatment(s) at all, other “types” of prostate cancer may be more aggressive, spreading quickly and requiring more intensive treatment(s). 

The cause of prostate cancer is largely unknown, but the consensus, among experts, is that it stems from changes in the cells in the prostate gland. These cells “mutate” or change causing them to become “abnormal” and “malignant,” leading to prostate cancer. In some cases, these cancerous cells break off and spread to surrounding tissue and other parts of the body (metastasization).

While there is no exact cause, there are some risk factors that can predispose a man to develop prostate cancer, such as weight, race/ethnicity, age, and family background. For instance, while studies have largely been mixed or inconclusive, it appears that men, who struggle with obesity, have an elevated risk of developing prostate cancer as compared to those who are not obese. 

Additionally, obese men tend to experience more aggressive “types” of prostate cancer that tend to return following the initial treatment(s). Moreover, prostate cancer risks tend to increase as you age. Thus, it is typically more common in men who are over the age of 50. It is also more common in non-Hispanic Black men. The reason why this cancer is more common in this population (than other ones) is currently unknown. However, Black men tend to experience more aggressive “types” of prostate cancer – and they are more likely to die from it. 

Lastly, men who have a family history of prostate cancer are more likely to also develop it, especially if the family member is a close relative like a parent, sibling, or child. Also, if your family carries the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene (the gene linked to breast cancer), you have an elevated risk of developing prostate cancer. 

Some common symptoms of prostate cancer include:

  • Trouble urinating
  • Weak force in the stream of urine (i.e., a “trickling” or light urine stream)
  • Bloody urine
  • Bloody semen
  • Bone pain
  • A sudden and unexplained loss of weight
  • Sexual dysfunction like erectile dysfunction (ED) or impotence

How is Prostate Cancer Treated?

The good news is that prostate cancer can be successfully treated – when caught early and when the cancer is localized in the prostate gland. The type of treatment(s) depends on the intensity level of the cancer – i.e., aggressive or non-aggressive, metastasized or non-metastasized, etc. 

Some of the most common treatments involve stress-management techniques like mindfulness meditation and deep breathing exercises, observation (when the prostate cancer is in its early stages), surgery to remove the prostate, radiation, “freezing” and “heating” the cancerous cells to “kill” them and remove them from your body, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted drug therapy.

Note: Remember, in early cases of prostate cancer, no treatment may be required. In this scenario, the oncologist takes a “wait and see” approach to determine the speed of the cancer.

What is Masturbation?

Masturbation involves self-pleasure. In other words, it involves using one’s fingers or hands, tongue, or sex toys to sexually excite oneself. This “solo sex play” is considered a safe, natural, and healthy way (in moderation) to explore one’s body and learn one’s sexual “likes” and ”dislikes.” 

Sometimes, masturbation is done alone, sometimes in the company of a partner (each partner engaging in solo masturbation in the other’s presence), and sometimes to each other (i.e., in the form of foreplay). 

Many masturbators report that engaging in this fun form of “sex play” has improved their sex lives, self-confidence, and even their romantic relationships – in and out of the bedroom. Masturbation involves touching, caressing, licking, squeezing, pinching, and even tickling your genitalia and other sensitive body parts (i.e., nipples). 

Masturbation (in moderation) is not linked to physical side effects, although it can cause problems socially, emotionally, or mentally, depending on how you perceive it. It can also cause problems in romantic relationships, and even cause you to question your spirituality. For example, Christians tend to believe that masturbation is wrong because it is in the Bible

It is not in the Bible, but that does not stop some church communities from shaming those who engage in masturbation. This communal or public “shaming” can cause mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, chronic stress, mental confusion, despair, avoidance behaviors, low self-esteem, and in some cases, suicidal thoughts and attempts, especially when porn use or porn addiction is involved. Porn is another “taboo” topic in most religious communities. 

So, when porn is coupled with masturbation it can and often does cause extreme distress in chronic masturbators who use porn (porn-induced masturbation) for sexual arousal and satisfaction. But, this can also happen in people who masturbate without porn. Porn addiction is an involuntary dependency on porn. 

When a person has a porn addiction they are unable to stop watching it. They become so dependent on porn that they are unable to experience sexual arousal without watching porn or masturbating to porn. Porn use becomes so ingrained in them that they no longer know how to experience sexual desire and fulfillment in the moment with a real-life partner. This can lead to problems in and out of the bedroom. 

Excessive porn use or porn addiction can also cause people to avoid others out of fear of being judged or criticized because of their sexual practices. Also, people who frequently or excessively watch porn also develop unrealistic expectations of what should happen in the bedroom. When these things do not happen it can lead to sexual dissatisfaction, sexual performance anxiety, depression, shame and guilt, etc. 

The good news is that porn addiction and chronic masturbation can be successfully treated through psychotherapy, medication, and self-help tools.

Does Masturbation Cause Prostate Cancer?

It depends on who you ask…

Studies indicate that masturbating reduces men’s risk of developing prostate cancer by 44%. However, a man’s age plays a significant role in the risk of developing prostate cancer. 

Researchers suggest that men, who are sexually active in their 20s and 30s, are more likely to develop prostate cancer, especially if they are frequent, excessive, or chronic masturbators. They also found that masturbating (i.e., frequently, excessively, or chronically) in your 40s and 50s offers some level of protection against developing prostate cancer. These researchers attributed this “protection” to masturbating rather than engaging in sexual intercourse. 

Approximately, 34% of the men with prostate cancer reported masturbating frequently, excessively, or chronically during their 20s and 30s as compared to 24% of them who did not report engaging in masturbation during this time. 

Keep in mind, however, that this study did not explore the reasons why or how frequent, excessive, or chronic masturbation protects men in their 40s and 50s against prostate cancer, one possible explanation is the “prostate stagnation hypothesis,” which states that theorizes that occasional ejaculation could allow cancer-causing substances to remain in the prostate gland for a longer time (than normal), thereby, increasing one’s risk of developing prostate cancer.

Similarly, an Austrian study suggests that men between the ages of 30-39 who frequent ejaculation from sexual activity or masturbation have the lowest risk of prostate cancer. This finding is in contrast to other studies that have found that men in their 20s, 30s, or 40s have the lowest risk of this “type” of cancer.

Likewise, another study found that men, between the ages of 50-59, who ejaculate frequently from sexual activity or masturbation, have the lowest risk of early-onset prostate cancer (when the diagnosis was made before they turned 60). While men in their 20s, who ejaculate frequently from sexual activity or masturbation have an increased risk of developing prostate cancer one day. 

Conversely, an earlier study, found that men, who masturbate and ejaculate more than 5x a week during their 20s, are 33% less likely to develop an aggressive “type” of prostate cancer as compared to those who masturbate and ejaculate fewer than 5x a week. According to these researchers, frequent ejaculation may prevent the cancer-causing substances from accumulating in the prostate gland. 

Likewise, researchers found that younger men, who engage in frequent ejaculation from sexual activity or masturbation, have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. More specifically, they found that younger men, who ejaculate at least 21x a month, have a reduced risk of developing this “type” of cancer.

The bottom line? Can masturbation cause prostate cancer? Theoretically, it is possible, however, it is unlikely to directly lead to prostate cancer. Still, the jury is still out. More research is needed to determine the link between masturbation and prostate cancer. The good thing is there are ways that excessive or chronic masturbation can be treated if you believe it is adversely impacting your quality of life in some way.

How Can Chronic Masturbation Be Treated?

Chronic masturbation can be treated in a variety of ways – some of which can also be beneficial for prostate cancer. Psychotherapy, specifically, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), are the “treatments of choice” for porn addiction and people struggling with excessive or chronic masturbation issues. 

These psychotherapies can also be beneficial for men suffering from prostate cancer because they can help you think of your situation in a more positive and healthy light. In other words, it can change the way you see your diagnosis so you do not feel anxious, depressed, helpless, or hopeless. ACT can help accept your diagnosis and commit to making positive changes in your life, such as adopting a healthier diet and getting more sleep and exercise (when you feel up to it). 

These therapies are also effective for those who masturbate too much and those who struggle with porn use or porn addiction. Medications, such as SSRI depressants, may be beneficial for people with prostate cancer and those who are struggling with chronic masturbation and porn addiction – who are also struggling with anxiety, stress, depression, or low self-esteem related to your diagnosis or addiction. 

Self-help tools, like Stop Together, an online porn addiction program, along with stress-management techniques, like mindfulness meditation, hypnosis, porn addiction support groups, hotlines, semen retention, NoFapping or NoFap Trackers can be highly helpful for people struggling with masturbation without porn and porn-induced masturbation. 

The goal of these treatments is to help you feel empowered during your struggle and to remind you that you can do this! You are strong and capable. With the right tools and a strong support group, you can beat whatever you are doing whether it be chronic masturbation, porn addiction, prostate cancer, or all of the above. 

References

  • Moses, K. A., Mahal, B. A., & George, D. J. (2022). Racial disparities in Black men with prostate cancer: A literature review. Cancer, 128(21), 3787-3795. https://doi.org/10.1002/cncr.34433
  • Dimitropoulou, P., Lophatananon, A., Easton, D., Pocock, R., Dearnaley, D. P., Guy, M., Edwards, S., O’Brien, L., Hall, A., Wilkinson, R., Eeles, R., Muir, K. R., UK Genetic Prostate Cancer Study Collaborators, & British Association of Urological Surgeons Section of Oncology (2009). Sexual activity and prostate cancer risk in men diagnosed at a younger age. BJU International, 103(2), 178–185. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1464-410X.2008.08030.x
  • Rider, J. R., Wilson, K. M., Sinnott, J. A., Kelly, R. S., Mucci, L. A., & Giovannucci, E. L. (2016). Ejaculation Frequency and Risk of Prostate Cancer: Updated Results with an Additional Decade of Follow-up. European urology, 70(6), 974–982. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eururo.2016.03.027
  • Zapata, D. F., Howard, L. E., Frank, J., Simon, R. M., Hoyo, C., Grant, D. J., Freedland, S. J., & Vidal, A. C. (2017). The association between sexual function and prostate cancer risk in US veterans. Asian Journal of Andrology, 19(2), 191-195. https://doi.org/10.4103/1008-682X.184869
  • Aboul-Enein, B. H., Bernstein, J., & Ross, M. W. (2016). Evidence for Masturbation and Prostate Cancer Risk: Do We Have a Verdict? Sexual Medicine Reviews, 4(3), 229–234. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sxmr.2016.02.006
  • Papa, N. P., MacInnis, R. J., English, D. R., Bolton, D., Davis, I. D., Lawrentschuk, N., Millar, J. L., Pedersen, J., Severi, G., Southey, M. C., Hopper, J. L., & Giles, G. G. (2017). Ejaculatory frequency and the risk of aggressive prostate cancer: Findings from a case-control study. Urologic oncology, 35(8), 530.e7–530.e13. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.urolonc.2017.03.007
  • Dennis, L. K., Ritchie, J. M., & Resnick, M. I. (2005). Prostate cancer and consistency of reporting sexual histories in men over age 50. Prostate cancer and prostatic diseases, 8(3), 243–247. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.pcan.4500810
  • Meissner, V. H., Dumler, S., Kron, M., Schiele, S., Goethe, V. E., Bannowsky, A., Gschwend, J. E., & Herkommer, K. (2020). Association between masturbation and functional outcome in the postoperative course after nerve-sparing radical prostatectomy. Translational Andrology and Urology, 9(3), 1286-1295. https://doi.org/10.21037/tau.2020.03.19

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