The debate about prostate health and cycling has taken on renewed vigour recently following the publication of a study involving 5,000 cyclists.
It reported a six-fold increase in prostate cancer among cyclists who trained for eight hours or more per week, compared to men who trained for less than 3.75hr.
Of course, association does not prove causation. Men with cancer were more likely to volunteer for the study, and we know that intense cycling can increase levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood for 24 hours — meaning cyclists are more likely to be referred for investigation.
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Not highlighted in the study was that the male subjects had a cancer rate three times lower than that observed in the general population.
This is most likely because there are over 180 beneficial biochemical changes that occur after exercise that reduce the risk of cancer by protecting our DNA, blocking cancer growth and spread (see box out below).
Even so, we must take seriously the suggestion that cycling increases risk by elevating levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS).
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My advice is: don’t stop cycling. Over time, with sensible training, antioxidant enzymes are up-regulated ...