A new study of male cyclists has mostly reassuring results about the sport's long-term health consequences, although a slight increase in the risk of prostate cancer means men may still want to consider changing their saddle.
Inspired by concern among health professionals over a possible association between impacts to the genital area during cycling with erectile dysfunction, infertility and prostate cancer, the cross-sectional population study assessed 5,282 male cyclists.
The good news is that the London-based researchers, whose study was published in the Journal of Men's Health, found no correlation between cycling and self-diagnosed erectile dysfunction nor between cycling and physician-diagnosed infertility.
For men over the age of 50, however, there was a slight increase in the risk of prostate cancer for those who cycled more than four hours per week.
"Physicians should discuss the potential risks and health benefits of cycling with their patients, and how it may impact their overall health," says Ajay Nehra, MD, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Men's Health and Chair, Department of Urology, Director, Men's Health, Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
Yet in the cycling community, such warnings from health care professionals are often disregarded.
An unspoken distaste for products designed for health and comfort and offering no sporting advantage, coupled with the "push through the pain" culture, has kept cyclists in traditional saddles despite discomfort and despite a plethora of products intended to eliminate the problem.
While many such comfort saddles exist, like the Real Seat, more aerodynamic versions like the Moon Saddle are available, and mountain bikers may prefer the Spongy Wonder MK9, designed for aggressive trails.
According to health care professionals, concern over genital damage should not be limited to men.
A study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that female cyclists were more likely to have vaginal tears and worse neurological function than the group of runners to whom they were compared.
The above-mentioned products are intended for men and women alike.