The association between bicycle riding and harm to the male reproductive organ has been around since man decided to climb on the two-wheeled machine. A new study presents evidence to both support and challenge some of these claims of an apparent risk from the enviromentally safe mode of transportation. At the end of the day, still nothing is definitive and we are not much closer to knowing the true long-term risks of cycling.
The study is based on data collected from more than 5,000 male bikers from 2012 to 2013 that found men who rode bikes the most, that is more than 8.5 hours a week, did have an increased chance of developing prostate cancer, HealthDay reported. But not all agree that the study's apparent link should be taken as fact. Dr. Chris Oliver, a consultant orthopedic surgeon with the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in Scotland, called the study small and “not statistically significant.” Oliver further urged, “Don’t worry about this study. Just keep riding.”
Now one would think that constant pressure on the man’s most treasured organ could lead to a certain level of damage, but the study’s rather non-impressive results would suggest otherwise. For example, of the 5,000 men involved in the study, eight percent reported erectile dysfunction, which is no higher than the occurrence of erectile dysfunction found in non-biking men. Only one percent of men reported infertility problems, and even less than that reported being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Even the study’s lead author, Dr. Milo Hollingworth, a research associate at University College London, agreed that these findings were inconclusive. “Men shouldn’t worry about increasing their risk of prostate cancer by cycling. Men should cycle as much as they did before,” he said. This is because, in his opinion, the physical and mental health benefits significantly outweigh the non-confirmed health risks.
The risk of penile damage caused by biking, although not yet confirmed, is a concept upheld by many reputable sources. Harvey B. Simon, editor of Harvard Health reported that a bike seat can reduce blood flow to the penis by as much as 66 percent; however, broadening the seat can reduce this restriction. Bike seat manufacturers are aware of the issue and have developed wider seats in an effort to avert any possible complications.
Lauren Wise, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Boston University School of Public Health, believes that men who develop penile problems or even cancer following years of biking are “less likely to continue biking,” and therefore less likely to have volunteered for the study. Still, regardless of this apparent flaw in the study, Wise still warns that the results are just as likely to be produced by chance as they are to be based on an actual cause-and-effect relationship.
Study: Hollingworth M, Harper A, Hamer M. An Observational Study of Erectile Dysfunction, Infertility, and Prostate Cancer in Regular Cyclists: Cycling For Health UK Study. Journal Of Men’s Health. 2014.