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Masturbation - Helpful or Harmful?

Posted Jan 27 2009 5:09pm

A study has revealed that masturbating could have both beneficial and detrimental health effects, depending on your age. Doctors say that the taboo sexual activity that few of us admit to, has links with a higher chance of prostate cancer for men in their twenties and thirties who masturbate often.

However, interestingly, when men get to their fifties, masturbating could actually protect against the cancer as it releases toxins that have built up over the decades.

Prostate cancer is driven by testosterone - the male hormone. Men who have high levels of the hormone in their body normally have a higher sex drive and consequently a bigger risk of prostate cancer.

In the past research has centred around older men, as it is uncommon to get prostate cancer under the age of 50. Researchers at the University of Nottingham looked at the connection between sexual activity in younger men and the cancer to see if it had an affect on their chances of having it in the future. Over 400 men who had prostate cancer diagnosed under the age of 60 answered questions about their sexual practices over the past decades and results were compared with 400 controls.

The results display that those who were more sexually active in their twenties - sexual intercourse or masturbating more than 20 times a month - had a higher risk factor. Masturbating often, but not having sex in the twenties and thirties showed an important link to the development of prostate cancer in latter years.

Men in their 50s who had frequent sexual activity (over 10 times a month for sexual intercourse and masturbation combined) had a limited decrease in the disease. The protective effect was more significant when masturbation was looked at on its own.

Polyxeni Dimitripolou, who headed the research, published in the British Journal of Urology International, commented, “It seems as if keeping up a certain level of sexual activity through the decades is better than having a high level early [in the 20s and 30s] and then nothing.”

“One theory is that during the early years the prostate gland is more susceptible to hormonal changes and is still developing. As men age and accumulate toxins from the diet or through their lungs , sexual activity may help release them. Studies have found toxins in the semen and the fluid produced in the prostate. As you age it is more important to flush them out.”

However, she could not identify what specifically about masturbation rather than sexual intercourse had such an effect on the increased or decreased risk of prostate cancer.

“For our sample there was no association with intercourse – all the effect was coming from masturbation. But it may have to do with our group of men. With a different group there could be different findings.”

She also said, “What makes our study stand out from previous research is that we focused on a younger age group than normal and included both intercourse and masturbation at various stages in people’s lives.”

A possible explanation for the protective effect that men in their fifties appear to receive from overall sexual activity, and particularly masturbation, is that the release of accumulated toxins during sexual activity reduces the risk of developing cancer in the prostate area. This theory has, however, not been firmly established and further research is necessary.”

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