THE QUESTION Cycling on a regular basis can have numerous physical benefits, improved cardiovascular health and muscle development among them. But for men, might time spent on a bike also raise risks for erectile dysfunction, fertility and prostate cancer?
THIS STUDY analyzed data on 5,282 male cyclists, 16 to 88 years old (average age, 48). All were described as habitual cyclists; some commuted to work on their bikes, some raced as amateurs and others cycled recreationally. About 8 percent reported having erectile dysfunction, 1 percent had an infertility diagnosis and 1 percent had prostate cancer. (The rate was 2 percent among men 50 and older).
The more hours a week a man spent cycling, the more likely he was to have prostate cancer. Among men 50 and older, those who biked four to 81 / 2 hours a week were three times as likely to have prostate cancer as were those who biked less than four hours a week. They were six times as likely if they biked more than 81 / 2 hours a week. However, time spent cycling was not linked to erectile dysfunction or infertility.
WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Men who ride bikes more than occasionally. Complaints of discomfort and health concerns usually focus on the design of the standard bicycle seat, which can put pressure on the prostate/groin area. Men who cycle a lot are often urged to replace the seat with a more comfortable one, to change positions frequently while on long rides and to wear padded bike shorts.
CAVEATS Data came from the participants’ responses on questionnaires. The study did not determine how cycling might contribute to the development of prostate cancer.
The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.