There’s no argument that bicycling is good exercise for men. It reduces the risk of Type II diabetes, coronary disease and stroke. It reduces stress and releases endorphins that create an overall feeling of well-being.
Now, a UK survey of 5,000 male cyclists reports an increase in the rate of prostate cancer for those who ride their bicycles the most often. The results were so unexpected and unique, however, that the researchers say more study is needed before men consider a lifestyle change.
At the same time, the survey also conflicts with previous research that associated increased bicycling with increased chances of infertility and erectile dysfunction.
Author Dr. Milo Hollingworth, a research associate at University College London, is quoted in HealthDay:
“Men shouldn’t worry about increasing their risk of prostate cancer by cycling. … Men should cycle as much as they did before. The benefits for your heart, lungs, whole body and mental health are much more important.”
He admitted the findings of the survey taken in 2012 and 2013 “are difficult to interpret.”
Perhaps the fact that the study was based on anonymous responses from an Internet survey advertised in UK cycling magazines may have led to bogus results.
There might be a couple of other explanations I would offer.
Men who ride bicycles more miles for greater health benefits or as amateur or professional cyclists may be more likely to seek regular physical exams. These commonly include several tests for prostate cancer — the PSA and digital rectal exams. If so, they’ll be the first ones who are diagnosed with the early stages of prostate cancer.
As a result, bike saddle manufacturers have engineered several styles of seats that reduce the pressure on the perineum in the contact area. Also, those who spend more time in the saddle are likely to invest in a professional bike fitting, which would help identify ways to reduce pressure.
Maybe the results show the results of those upgrades.
According to DoctorsLounge.com, the survey published in the Journal of Men’s Health found that just under 1% of the men reported being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Those who biked the most — more than 8-1/2 hours per week — reported a 3.5% rate of prostate cancer. The group that biked the least had a 0.5% rate of prostate cancer.
In light of those responses, consider this: the US National Cancer Institute reports that 15.3% of men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer sometime in their lifetime.
Long-time readers of this blog will know that I was diagnosed with prostate cancer back in 2007. I had a minimally invasive prostatectomy with a surgeon who used a da vinci robotic device. I recovered wonderfully.
Throughout my diagnosis and treatment, no one raised the possibility that my bicycling caused the prostate cancer. In fact, the surgeon said my bicycling strengthened my pelvic area and made my recovery that much easier.
I would agree with the author of the study, Dr. Hollingworth, who says men shouldn’t worry about the risk of prostate cancer from cycling. I just wish he’d kept these results of this survey to himself until he could interpret them … or do a better follow-up study that didn’t rely on anonymous responses from an Internet questionnaire.
See the report at Journal of Men’s Health.