FRIDAY, July 18, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A new study fuels the
ongoing debate over the health risks of bicycle riding for men:
Researchers found that cyclists who bike more may face a higher
risk of prostate cancer, but not a greater chance of infertility or
The findings aren't definitive, and they conflict with previous
research on impotence and infertility. Other experts pointed to the
study's weaknesses, and lead author Dr. Milo Hollingworth, a
research associate at University College London, acknowledged that
the findings are "difficult to interpret."
"Men shouldn't worry about increasing their risk of prostate cancer by cycling," he stressed. "Men should cycle as much as they did before. The benefits for your heart, lungs, whole body and mental health are much more important."
Previous research has suggested that bike riding for more than
three hours a week boosts the risk of mild to moderate erectile
dysfunction, said Dr. Chris Oliver, a consultant orthopedic surgeon
with the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in Scotland. Other studies
have also linked bike riding to infertility in men.
In the new study, researchers surveyed more than 5,000 male
cyclists from 2012 to 2013.
Eight percent of the men reported erectile dysfunction problems,
although they weren't more common in men who biked more. The
investigators did find links between erectile dysfunction and three
factors -- high blood pressure, smoking and older age.
The researchers didn't find any link between more cycling and
more cases of infertility, which 1 percent of the men reported.
As for prostate cancer, just under 1 percent of the men overall
reported being diagnosed with it. Those who biked the most, more
than 8.5 hours a week, were much more likely to have prostate
cancer than the other men, although the study doesn't prove there's
an actual connection between the two.
Of the 498 men who biked the most, 17 said they had prostate
cancer (3.5 percent). Of those who biked the least, three out of
511 (0.5 percent) said they had prostate cancer, the findings
The trends held up after the researchers adjusted their
statistics so they wouldn't be thrown off by factors such as large
or small numbers of men of certain ages.
What should men do? "Don't stop cycling because of this study,"
said Oliver, the surgeon in Scotland. The study is small, "not
statistically significant" and based on anonymous responses from
However, he did recommend that men get a good bike seat, known
as a saddle. Bike seats have been implicated in infertility and
erectile problems caused by bike riding, and bike seat
manufacturers have tried to design better seats.
"Don't worry about this study," Oliver said. "Just keep riding."
Lauren Wise, an associate professor of epidemiology at the
Boston University School of Public Health who studies the causes of
infertility, said the study has potential weaknesses. For one
thing, "regular bikers who volunteered for this study are probably
less likely to have a history of infertility or erectile
dysfunction because if they had experienced those events they would
be less likely to continue biking," she said.
She also cautioned that the study doesn't prove a
cause-and-effect relationship between biking and prostate cancer.
And, she said, the number of cases of prostate cancer -- 36 out of
5,282-- is small, and the apparent links to cycling time could be
only due to chance.
The study appeared in the July 11 issue of the
Journal of Men's Health.
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