Sexual infections can increase the risk for certain types of cancer. This is one of the reasons why girls as young as 11 are encourage to get vaccinated against the human papilloma virus (HPV) which can cause cervical cancer. More recently, a similar HPV vaccine for men has also been approved in order to prevent penile cancer.
Another type of sexual infection has also been implicated in increasing cancer risk. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have found a link between the common sexually transmitted infection by Trichomonas vaginalis and risk of an aggressive form of prostate cancer in men.
Trichomonas vaginalis is a single-celled protozoan parasite that causes the sexually transmitted disease (STD) tricomoniasis. It is the most common STD that is not caused by a virus. It is estimated that 174 million people worldwide get this type of infection this year. According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) “most men with trichomoniasis do not have signs or symptoms; however, some men may temporarily have an irritation inside the penis, mild discharge, or slight burning after urination or ejaculation.”
Inflammation is a risk factor in prostate cancer and trichomoniasis can be a source of inflammation, esepcially in the genital area. Unfortunately, many people with this infection are asymptomatic , are not aware they have it and can trasnmit this disease to their partners.
The current study looked at 673 male patients with prostate cancer and another 673 without cancer as part of the Physicians’ Health Study. Blood samples were collected and analyzed for infection status. The results showed that trichomoniasis infection was associated with a more than two-fold increase in the risk of prostate cancer diagnosed at an advanced staged. Furthermore, the increase in mortality due to this type of cancer was increased three-fold.
According to author Dr. Lorelei Mucci, assistant professor in the department of epidemiology at HSPH
“The fact that we found a strong association between serologic evidence of infection with Trichomonas vaginalis, a potentially modifiable risk factor, and risk of advanced and lethal disease represents a step forward in prostate cancer, especially given that so few risk factors for aggressive prostate cancer have been identified.”
In other words, preventing trichomoniasis will also help prevent aggressive and deadly prostate cancer. Trichomoniasis can be treated with prescription drugs such as metronidazole or tinidazole.
It is to be noted that trichomoniasis is not restricted to men only. Women can also get the infection, which causes genital inflammation and increases a women’s susceptibility to HIV infection.
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