Since professional cyclist Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1996, many men have wondered about the connection between cycling and testicular cancer, as well as prostate cancer. While a number of studies have looked into a link between the sport and cancer, the findings to date are inconclusive, says Mark Pomerantz, MD.
“This is a question that comes up often, and it’s a very reasonable one,” says Pomerantz, a medical oncologist in Dana-Farber’s Lank Center for Genitourinary Oncology, noting the connection between inflammation and cancer, and the amount of stress consistent cycling puts on the groin.
For testicular cancer, some studies have shown a connection between cycling and cancer, and some have not. For those that have shown a connection, Pomerantz says it is unclear whether it’s the pressure and inflammation on the groin or chemicals in the seat that cause the association, or whether men who bike often are more in tune with their health and likely to catch cancers early.
There has been similar research into prostate cancer, including a study from the United Kingdom in 2014 that found an association between rigorous and consistent bicycle riding (more than 8.5 hours per week) and prostate cancer. The reason for the association is again unclear, a likely one being that active men see the doctor more regularly, Pomerantz says.
While the connection between cycling and testicular and prostate cancer warrants further study, Pomerantz urges men to continue regular exercise.
“We absolutely encourage exercise, including for those men in treatment,” says Pomerantz, referencing a number of studies that have shown exercise reduces the risk of and aggressiveness of both testicular and prostate cancer.
“Given what we know right now, I would say that the benefits of any exercise you’re doing, even on the bicycle, more than offset any of the risks.”