Does masturbation prevent prostate cancer if engaged in early in life? That’s highly debatable as a delightful online dialogue between mathematician Tanya Khovanoova and myself illustrates.
Just about two years ago she wrote an article called, "Masturbation and Prostate Cancer." Granted this is an unusual topic for someone who writes about the applications of math to life in general. But since she focuses on mathematical probabilities and variables, what she writes makes a lot of sense. Here’s what she wrote (cited with permission):
“My English teacher and editor Sue Katz wrote a funny blog entry about masturbation: “Sex and the Single Hand: Stroke Your Way to Health”.
“I followed the link of one of the studies she mentions to the BBC article “Masturbation ‘cuts cancer risk’”, where ” … They found those who had ejaculated the most between the ages of 20 and 50 were the least likely to develop the [prostate] cancer.”
“When I hear such results, my first question is, 'How was the study conducted?' It appears that Australian researchers questioned over 1,000 men who had developed prostate cancer and 1,250 who had not about their [past] sexual habits.
The problem with asking people about their sexual habits 30 years ago is that there are a large number of dead people you can’t ask. What if the most active masturbators have died from fatigue?
“Should you masturbate more to reduce your cancer risk as the BBC suggests?“Prostate cancer might not be related to masturbation at all, but rather to something else that correlates with masturbation.
• It could be that men who have a higher libido have less prostate cancer.
• Or that men who have more free time have less prostate cancer.
• Or that men who are not depressed have less prostate cancer. • Or that men who have higher speed Internet connections have less prostate cancer.
“In case you are wondering how one’s Internet connection is related to all this, let me remind you of a joke about a conversation between two geeks.
— “When you look at a girl, what do you notice first?”
— “Her hair, then her eyes, then her nose, then her lips — I have dial-up.”
Tanya concluded: “One thing I know for sure: women who masturbate have even less prostate cancer than men who masturbate. Hooray for masturbation!” (Cited at www.blog.tanyakhovanova.com/?p=26. Reproduced with permission.)
I wrote Tanya thanking her for her exquisitely funny expose. Here’s what I told her:
I love the way you expressed the variety of variables that could explain how a man can lower prostate cancer risk, other than masturbation.
I’ve written on my blog (ConquerProstateCancer.com) that there are no valid studies corroborating any connection between masturbation and the reduction of prostate cancer risks. Recalling what intimate acts you did or didn’t do thirty years earlier is hardly a reliable basis for concluding what contributes to good health.The only study that could either prove or disprove that masturbation reduces prostate cancer is a randomized, double-blind study over several decades. Specifically men in their twenties would have to be randomly assigned to one of two groups: celibates and studs, and STAY that way for the next thirty years! Failing that, social scientists cannot possibly conclude whether masturbation helps or hinders.
There are hardly any men I know who would consent to belong to the celibate category for the sake of science!
Later on I thanked Tanya again for our agreeable interchange, adding that it makes for great insight about the questionable validity of some social scientific conclusions. It also makes for a good laugh, which we all need!Ain’t that the truth!!