There does not appear to be direct evidence that cycling increases the risk of prostate cancer but the debate has certainly raised awareness amongst cyclists and has resulted in more questions being asked, and hopefully answered.
So what is prostate cancer? The prostate gland is part of the male reproductive system. The prostate is a small egg-sized gland that is found near the bladder and the male urethra.
How Cycling May Increase the Risk of Prostate Cancer
Prostatic Inflammation: Repetitive compression to the perineum (the area between the anus and the scrotum), may lead to recurrent inflammation of the prostate. This is more likely in cyclists cycling more than 8 hours per week.
Testosterone: Levels increase immediately after intense exercise, which could encourage the growth of early prostate cancer cells. However, this growth is only believed to occur in the first 15-60 following exercise and primarily in men under the age of 55. Testosterone levels gradually drop below normal levels in men who are considered elite athletes.
Strenuous Exercise: In untrained athletes / cyclists, strenuous exercise can produce reactive oxidative species (ROS), which may damage an individual’s DNA, which can lead to cancer beginning.
How Cycling May Reduce the Risk of Prostate Cancer
Health: Cycling, amongst other forms of exercise, reduces obesity and improves overall physical health. Cycling regularly also increases vitamin D levels and helps with psychological perception, leading to improved wellbeing.
Insulin: Cycling helps to improve insulin sensitivity, lowering growth cytokines such as insulin-like growth factor (IGF), which increases the number of the body’s natural killer cells and lymphocytes. These help the body’s immune system to recognise cancer cells and reduces markers of inflammation such as prostaglandin 2.
Should Cyclists Be Worried About Prostate Cancer
Taking prostate cancer serious is the first step towards not worrying about this cancer. If you are concerned, you should consider seeking professional medical assistance.
What can cyclists do to reduce the risk of prostate cancer? First of all, don’t stop cycling. Regular cycling produces antioxidant enzymes, which help to compensate for the increase in ROS.
- Eat antioxidant-rich foods
- Use a comfortable saddle
- Cut-out refined sugars
- Reduce processed meats
- Eat plenty of polyphenol-rich vegetables, spices, herbs, teas, berries and fruits
Credit: Based on an original article by Professor Robert Thomas (Oncologist at Bedford and Addenbrooke’s Cambridge University Hospitals), published in Cycling Weekly (June 2016).