Sexual activity and married state

As prostate cancer affects a gland that is uniquely under the control of male hormones, it would seem logical that there should be some relationship between the development of the disease and the levels of male hormones in the blood and sexual activity.

The effects of sexual activity are difficult to document because it is hard to measure sexual activity objectively, and even more difficult to make comparisons between different populations. However, evidence first came to light about 20 years ago on the possible importance of sexual activity in the development of prostate cancer. Patients with prostate cancer were found to have an increased likelihood of having had a sexually transmitted disease, to have had more sexual partners and possibly to have a greater libido than either men without prostate cancer or men with benign enlargement of the prostate gland (BPH). The study suggests that married men are at greater risk of developing prostate cancer, as are divorcees or widowers. Single men are the least likely to develop the disease. The evidence produced in this study, comes from an analysis of a small number of people and was not considered to have validity.

Surprisingly, more evidence emerged in 2001 confirming the possible link between sex and prostate cancer, linking numbers of sexual partners and lack of condom use with an increased risk of prostate cancer. So there may be something in the story.

Circulating levels of the male hormone testosterone have been measured in patients with prostate cancer and compared and contrasted with levels in normal patients and in patients with benign enlargement of the gland. For many years it was thought that, in comparison to these controls, patients with prostate cancer had similar levels of the male hormone.

However, recent evidence would seem to point to slightly higher levels of testosterone in prostate cancer patients than in normal men. This point has been debated considerably and is by no means medical fact. But as we shall see later, the control of testosterone levels is an important factor in the hormonal treatment of prostate cancer.

Although there is a very small body of opinion that suggests that prostate cancer may be related to sexual activity, the evidence is contentious and the risk is certainly a very small component in the development of the disease. In view of this it would be senseless to burden yourself with any sort of guilt about past relationships. Nor would it be of any value to disturb a loving relationship on the off chance that doing so could decrease your risk of developing carcinoma of the prostate.