MAMILs – Middle Aged Men In Lycra – may have a much greater than average risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer, according to a new study. It’s not all bad news, though with researchers finding no evidence to back up the belief that cycling can lead to erectile dysfunction or infertility.
A team at University College London studied 5,200 male cyclists, 2,000 of them over the age of 50, in what they say is the biggest ever study on the effects of cycling on health, publishing their findings in the Journal of Men’s Health, reports Telegraph.co.uk.
They found that men aged in their 50s who cycle more than half an hour a week are at twice the risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Those spending 8 hours 45 minutes or more in the saddle were six times more likely than average to receive such a diagnosis.
But researchers said that the findings, while surprising, did not necessarily mean there was a direct link between cycling and the disease.
One possibility is that cyclists are more aware of their health than the average person, meaning there is an increased chance of diagnosis, although they said that bike riders were no more likely to visit their doctor than average.
Another explanation however is that cycling does place more pressure on the prostate, although further research would be needed to establish whether there is definitely a link.
Dr Mark Hamer, of UCL’s School of Epidemiology, said: “It’s tricky to interpret. Obviously the men who are cycling for the most amount of time are more health aware so they may be just more likely to be diagnosed.
“Or there could be a genuine biological link between trauma in the area of the prostate associated with bike riding.
“We were quite surprised by the size of the finding for prostate cancer so it does warrant further investigation, but we can’t draw any conclusions from this study.”
Turning to the issue of infertility and erectile dysfunction, he said: “This is good news for male cyclists, there is no association between cycling time and erectile dysfunction and infertility.
“In the modern era of cycling saddles are much better now so there is nothing like the pressure that there once was.
“The absence of a positive association between cycling and infertility allays concerns raised by previous studies about alterations in sperm characteristics in cyclists.
Dr Hamer added: “This study demonstrates that concerns regarding male infertility are cycling has not been born out. Increasing cycling levels in the population has huge potential gains for public health.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.