Do Men With Sexual Dysfunction Have a Higher Risk of Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer (cancer that occurs in the walnut-sized gland responsible for producing much of the fluid in semen) is commonly associated with sexual dysfunction. This is because prostate cancer treatments such as radiation therapy and radical prostatectomy (a surgery to remove the prostate) can result in temporary or permanent sexual dysfunction.
Nevertheless, the effect of existing sexual dysfunction on a person’s risk of developing prostate cancer is not clear. A recent study aimed to explore whether men who suffer from sexual dysfunction are at increased risk of developing prostate cancer.
The study consisted of an extensive review and meta-analysis of all studies reporting an association between sexual dysfunction and prostate cancer risk in adults published up to October 2022. After removing duplicate publications and those that did not address the topic of study, the authors were left with 20 studies for their analysis. A total of 215,626 individuals were included in these studies.
Analysis of the data revealed that compared to the men in the control groups, men with sexual dysfunction had a 1.62-fold increased risk of prostate cancer. What’s more, the men with sexual dysfunction had higher prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels than the men in the control groups. (Elevated PSA levels can be a sign of prostate cancer).
While the results of this meta-analysis suggest that men with sexual dysfunction have a higher risk of prostate cancer (and higher PSA levels) than men without sexual dysfunction, further research is needed to determine the cause(s) of this association.
Regardless, the authors of the current study discussed a few potential reasons for why this association may exist. Firstly, sexual dysfunction and prostate cancers share several common risk factors including smoking, obesity, sedentary behavior, and advanced age. Therefore, the association between sexual dysfunction and prostate cancer could be a result of the overlapping risk factors between the two conditions.
Secondly, sexual activity could play a role in the association between sexual dysfunction and prostate cancer. Previous studies have suggested that a younger age at first intercourse, an increased number of sexual partners, and a history of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) may increase a person’s risk of prostate cancer. Sexual dysfunction can also sometimes be related to a history of STIs, so this may indicate another overlapping risk factor between prostate cancer and sexual dysfunction.
On the other hand, frequent ejaculation (particularly during early adulthood) may decrease a person’s risk of prostate cancer. As such, men with good sexual function may ejaculate more frequently during adulthood, potentially lowering their risk of prostate cancer.
Again, these theories cannot by proven or refuted by the current study, and only future studies can illuminate the possible reason why sexual dysfunction may be associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer. Still, it is good for patients and health care providers to know about the relationship between sexual dysfunction and prostate cancer and to keep this in mind for health checkups and cancer screening purposes.
- Dilixiati, D., Kadier, K., Laihaiti, D., Lu, J.D., Azhati, B., & Rexiati, M. (2023). The association between sexual dysfunction and prostate cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 20(2), 184-193. https://doi.org/10.1093/jsxmed/qdac025