Congratulations, Casanovas—men who have slept with a high number of women are statistically far less likely to develop prostate cancer.
Researchers at the University of Montreal and INRS—Institut Armand-Frappier found that those who had more than 20 sexual partners were 28 percent less likely to be affected by the disease, which is the second most common form of cancer among American men. Celibacy doubled the risk factor among the 3000 men tested.
The research—which was carried out as part of the Prostate Cancer and Environment study —uncovered a number of new statistics about sufferers of the disease, including the finding that straight men whose magic number surpassed 20 had 19 percent less chance of getting an aggressive type of cancer, and that gay men who had slept with the same amount were twice as likely to be diagnosed as those who had never had sex with a man.
“[This] could come from greater exposure to sexually transmitted infections, or it could be anal intercourse produces physical trauma to the prostate,” explained Marie-Elise Parent, a professor at the university’s School of Public Health and co-author of the paper.
“The etiology of prostate cancer is poorly understood,” the paper reads, and this much is true. There has been a great deal of conflicting news on both its causes and the efficacy of prostate cancer checks, with half of people surveyed in the UK earlier this year being misdiagnosed. Preventative screenings are not offered in most countries on the grounds that they will cause more damage than good, particularly as many strains are non-fatal.
For straight guys, this news is pretty sweet—giving them a free pass to mess around and reduce their risk of developing a disease (well, at least one kind) in the process. “It is possible that having many female sexual partners results in a higher frequency of ejaculations, whose protective effect against prostate cancer has been previously observed in cohort studies,” Parent said.
This new research adds weight to the idea that sex can expunge cancerous pathogens through semen. But while the study has undoubtedly formed the start of an important analysis of the link between copulation and cancer, questions still remain. Why, for instance, would having more sexual partners be a better safeguard against the disease than masturbation?
“Ejaculation history is an important question that was missing from this study,” says Vanessa Hayes, professor of prostate cancer genomics at The Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney. “Does that mean men who have multiple women are just more sexually orientated and would masturbate more because they’re thinking about sex more often? Is it just a consequence of more sexually prone men? Or do they have high levels of testosterone, which have been shown to have a reduced link to prostate cancer?”
Though the study did chart the prostate health of several thousand men, that number is still comparatively small given the number of people the disease is believed to affect (an estimated 233,000 new cases will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year). It will take replication studies and a more in-depth look at the genetic links between the cancer and its sufferers before sleeping around can really be touted as a viable preventative measure.
Jake Norman, who has been growing a moustache in aid of men’s health charity Movember for the past four years, doesn’t believe the findings will be taken too literally. “While this may spark some chest beating about how many women people have slept with, I don’t think this will actively change a guy’s thought patterns and behaviour towards looking for a sexual partner,” he says. “The primal urge to have sex is far too salient and I doubt someone’s prostate has ever come into his mind when he is out looking for a girl.”
But Hayes has concerns about promoting news of scientifically approved sleeping around. “My first thoughts on the study were ‘what kind of message is this going to send out?,’” she admits. “And men are not always honest when they answer these [kinds of] questions, especially when it comes to sexuality. The majority of any population are not clued up on science, and I would be a bit more nervous about how the results might be taken.”
“I think there are people out there who just like excuses,” Hayes concludes—and she’s probably right. Ladies, awful pick-up lines are about to get a whole lot worse.