Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections commonly spread through sexual contact that affect the genitals and may have serious associated health risks. Some of these infections can directly contribute to various forms of cancer, including but not limited to, cervical, anal and penile cancers.
It is important for sexually active individuals to be aware of the health risks associated with different STIs in order to protect both their own health and the health of their partners. In this guide we will discuss the STIs that have a strong link to cancer, such as:
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Genital herpes
- Hepatitis B and C viruses
- Chlamydia trachomatis
We will also examine how these infections increase the risk of cancer and what steps can be taken to lessen that risk.
Overview of STIs
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a major health concern worldwide and can have a variety of serious and potentially life-threatening consequences. Some STIs have a strong link to certain types of cancer, while other STIs may cause only minor symptoms or no symptoms at all.
This article will provide an overview of STIs and their potential links to different types of cancer:
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is an ancient virus that has been a part of human existence for thousands of years and is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. HPV can cause genital warts and certain types can also lead to cancer. HPV is also associated with certain other types of cancer such as oropharyngeal, anal, vulvar and vagina cancers and penile cancer, which can all be serious health conditions if not treated.
There are over 130 different types of the HPV virus, but only some are linked to elevated risks for different cancers. Types 6 and 11 are known to cause genital warts while Types 16 and 18 take a higher toll with their strong association to cervical cancer in women. Of these, Type 16 appears to have an even stronger link to specific types of oral cancers such as oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC).
Infection with any type of HPV does not guarantee that someone will develop cancer; however, it is important for people who may have been exposed to HPV or who have symptoms suggestive of this virus should consult their physician about appropriate testing for the presence of infection. Vaccination against some strains remains one way to prevent infection with this virus but it should be noted that individuals covered by insurance may still need additional tests even after vaccination in order to confirm protection from specific viral strains.
Chlamydia is an STI caused by a bacterial infection and is the most common STI found in people under 25 years of age. People who are sexually active with multiple partners, have unprotected sex, or do not practice regular screening are more likely to get infected.
Chlamydia is a very common yet silent condition that often has no symptoms and can go undiagnosed. Left untreated, it can lead to serious reproductive and other health complications, such as:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Premature birth and low birth weight in women
- Prostate infections in men
- Cervical cancer in women
- Passing on to unborn babies during pregnancy, leading to blindness or pneumonia in the child.
Screening for chlamydia is sometimes done as part of routine tests for sexually active individuals or those with risk factors such as young age, multiple partners or a new sexual partner. The infection can be easily diagnosed with laboratory tests, treated effectively with antibiotics and usually cured with no long-term effects. This makes early diagnosis very important for preventing potential long-term consequences from the infection.
Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It is one of the most common STIs among young people. Though antibiotics can cure it, left untreated, gonorrhea can lead to serious health issues in both sexes, including pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and ectopic pregnancy in women; and sterility and inflammation of testicles in men.
Gonorrhea also seems to have an unexplained link to an increased risk of cancer at certain sites. One study out of Japan found that men with a prior history of gonococcal infections had approximately seven times more risk for prostate cancer compared to those without past infections. Additionally, men with five or more lifetime sexual partners (compared to those with zero) had nearly 15 times greater risk for prostate cancer; this association was explained by their recurrent exposure to N. gonorrhoeae infection leading to immunosuppression. Moreover, researchers have suggested that the high prevalence of oral gonorrhea increases the risk for oropharyngeal cancers – cancers located in the back part of throat or base of tongue – caused by several different viruses.
However, though studies suggest potential linkages between some types of STIs like gonorrhea and cervical cancer due to its HIV-like effects on immune system integrity, further research is necessary for confirmation prior to drawing definitive conclusions about any associations between these associations and various types of cancers.
Syphilis is a bacterial infection that can be spread through sexual contact or by sharing contaminated needles. Early symptoms may include a painless sore, followed by a rash, fever, swollen lymph nodes and/or headaches. If left untreated, syphilis can cause major damage to your organs and result in chronic health issues such as dementia and blindness. It can also be passed from mother to baby during pregnancy and birth, causing miscarriages or stillbirths.
In recent years, research has found a strong link between syphilis and cancer in certain rare cases. Nongonococcal urethritis – an inflammation of the urethra caused by several types of bacteria, including Treponema pallidum that causes syphilis – has strongly associated with the development of invasive penile squamous cell carcinoma (pSCC). The risk involved is especially high among men whose immune systems have been weakened by things such as HIV or cancer treatment. pSCC is rare but can be fatal if not detected early and treated properly.
It’s important to practice safe sex to avoid catching or passing on any sexually transmitted infections (STIs), like syphilis. Sexually transmitted infections are treatable with antibiotics but they should not be taken lightly – it’s always best to seek medical help right away if you suspect you may have contracted an STI.
Herpes is a common sexually transmitted infection caused by the Herpes simplex virus (HSV). It can affect both men and women and is passed through direct contact with an infected person’s skin, saliva or the site of infection, including the genitals and the mouth. There are two main types of HSV: herpes type 1 (HSV-1) typically affects the mouth, while herpes type 2 (HSV-2) most often affects the genitals.
While there is no cure for HSV once it has been contracted, there are treatments available to help manage symptoms.
Interestingly, some research has suggested that having an HSV-2 infection may increase a person’s risk of developing certain types of cancer. Specifically, research suggests that having HSV-2 may increase a woman’s risk of developing cervical cancer. However, it’s important to note that this link is still being studied and should not be taken as medical advice in any way.
It is also important to remember that regularly practicing safe sex – including using condoms and getting tested regularly – will help reduce your risk of contracting STIs like Herpes and lessen your risk for any associated health complications.
Link Between STIs and Cancer
Certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have been linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most well-known of these, as it is associated with cervical and other forms of cancer. However, there are other STIs with a strong link to cancer as well.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the link between STIs and cancer and how to protect yourself:
Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers in women, and it’s almost always caused by an infection with a human papillomavirus (HPV), a group of more than 150 related viruses that can be spread through sexual intercourse. HPV infections are very common and generally don’t cause any symptoms, but they can occasionally lead to cervical cancer if left untreated.
It is estimated that HPV infection causes virtually all cases of cervical cancer, with several high-risk strains classified as “carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organization. However, not all infected individuals will develop cancer; many infections are cleared or become dormant without causing any lasting damage or harm. Infection also requires several years before signs of cancer begin to appear.
Early diagnosis is an important factor for successful treatment. Regular Pap tests (or Pap smears) from your health care provider can help detect cervical abnormalities before they become cancerous. Vaccination against HPV is often recommended for young people approaching their sexual debut to reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer in the future.
Penile cancer is a rare form of cancer, but some sexually transmitted infections are associated with a higher risk of developing it. Human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection, has been linked to approximately 95% of all cases of penile cancer. HPV infects skin and mucous membranes, including those in the organ penis.
Men who have multiple sex partners and do not practice safe sex are at higher risk for HPV and other STIs that can lead to penile cancer. Taking steps to reduce your risk can help make sure you don’t develop this type of cancer:
- Practice safe sex. Use a condom or dental dam to prevent transmission of STIs during sexual contact or oral sex. Having fewer sexual partners can also reduce your risk factors for penile cancer.
- Get regular medical checkups so that undiagnosed STIs can be identified and treated before they become serious problems.
- Ask your doctor about vaccines for HPV and other STIs, such as herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2), chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, and hepatitis B, which could also put you at risk for developing penile cancer if left untreated.
- Talk openly with your partner about any contact with an infected individual or any symptoms of an STI.
Anal cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the anal canal. It is a rare form of cancer and accounts for about 1-2% of all cancers that start in the gastrointestinal tract. It is becoming increasingly more common, as more people are being diagnosed with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)-related anal cancer each year. HPV is strongly linked to anal cancer, and many people develop anal cancer as a result of persistent infections with certain high-risk types of the HPV virus.
High risk HPV infections have been linked to sex practices that increase one’s risk of contracting certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It has been estimated that 92% of all cases of anal cancer are caused by infection with one or more high risk strains of HPV. Thus, unprotected sexual intercourse and multiple sexual partners are known to play a role in transmission and development of this type of cancer.
Other STIs such as syphilis, herpes simplex virus (HSV), gonorrhoea, and chlamydia have also been associated with an increased risk for developing anal cancer due to increased inflammation in the anorectal area which can lead to changes in cells lining the anal canal which can potentially cause them to become malignant over time. With that said, individuals who practice safe sex and minimize their partnerships may reduce their chances for developing this type of cancer due to decreased exposure to potential carcinogens carried by these bacteria or viruses within STIs.
Oropharyngeal (mouth and throat) cancers are very closely linked with human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the most commonly transmitted sexually transmitted infection, or STI. It can affect different areas of the body, including the mouth and throat. HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer is very difficult to detect in its early stages as most people have no symptoms before this stage. However, if detected early, treatments such as surgery and radiation can be successful in curing it.
HPV infection can be prevented by using condoms during sexual intercourse, getting the vaccine for HPV, abstaining from sexual contact or having only one partner who is not infected with the virus. Unfortunately, even with prevention measures in place there are still many people who unknowingly transmit HPV through oral sex and other forms of contact that involve mucous membranes such as French kissing and deep kissing.
It’s important to remember that even if you do take all necessary precautions against contracting an STI such as HPV by using protection when engaging in sexual activity and getting vaccinated, you still need to get regular screenings that check for oropharyngeal cancer in order to prevent any type of late stage complications which may result from an undiagnosed or untreated disease.
Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer. HPV, or Human Papillomavirus (HPV), is a sexually transmitted infection that has a strong link to cervical cancer. The good news is, there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk of HPV and associated cancers.
We’ll look at the ways you can prevent HPV and the cervical cancer it can cause:
Vaccines are one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of certain sexually transmitted infections (STI) that have been linked to an increased risk of cancer. Vaccinations can help protect against Human Papillomavirus (HPV), Herpes Simplex Virus type II (HSV-II), Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), and Chlamydia trachomatis, which have all been linked to a higher risk of cancer in some individuals. It is recommended that individuals get vaccinated for these STIs regardless of potential or current sexual partner status as HPV and HSV-II infections can be acquired through skin-to-skin contact.
The HPV vaccine is recommended for girls and boys ages 11–12, who may not already have received the three doses at an earlier age, as well as for women who are sexually active up to age 26, and men up to age 21 who did not get vaccinated when they were younger. Additionally, people with compromised immune systems should receive this vaccine if they are between nine and 26 years old because their weakened defenses leave them vulnerable to even minor immunizations diseases such as HPV. Finally, people over 27 who have not previously received the vaccine can also do so; however, they should talk to a health care provider first.
It is also important to remember that vaccinations cannot protect against all sexually transmitted infections that are associated with a higher risk of cancer; however, by receiving regularly scheduled tests you may be able to detect any STI’s early on so that any necessary preventive measures or treatments can be started right away.
Safe sex practices
The practice of safe sex is important in the prevention of STIs, particularly those associated with an increased risk of cancer. Examples include human papillomavirus (HPV) and herpes simplex virus (HSV).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that both men and women use condoms consistently every time they have sexual contact, even if they are already in a committed relationship or if they receive any type of preventive vaccines, such as Gardasil or Cervarix.
Condoms provide a barrier method of protection that can reduce transmission of bacteria, viruses, and other parasites. Using lubricant with the condom can also reduce friction and increase its protective efficacy. However, couples should be aware that condoms do not provide 100% protection from contracting an STI because it is possible for skin-to-skin contact to occur even when the condom is used correctly.
In addition to practicing protected sex, abstaining from high-risk behaviors and getting tested regularly for STIs can help to protect your health. Regular check-ups with your doctor should include screening for common sexually transmitted infections – even if no symptoms are present – as well as questions about sexual practices in order to help you make informed decisions about your health in the future.
Regular screening is an important way to reduce your risk of developing cancer. Certain types of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have been linked with a higher risk of cancer. Knowing your STI status and talking to your partner before having sex are the best ways to reduce your risk of getting an STI.
Getting tested regularly for HIV, HPV, and syphilis can help you get early detection, treatment, and counseling if needed. Testing can also provide valuable information about how your sexual practices may affect your long-term health, as well as the health of those around you.
Speaking openly with current and potential partners about STI prevention is essential in reducing the rate of transmission. When there isn’t open communication between partners, it increases the likelihood that one will be unknowingly exposed to an infection that could lead to serious health consequences like cancer down the line. Condoms are not 100% effective against all STIs; therefore, reducing risky behavior such as
- not using condoms
- having multiple partners
is key in maintaining optimal sexual health.
Though much research is still ongoing, some Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) have been strongly linked to an increased risk of cancer. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a particularly concerning STI, which has been linked to anal and cervical cancers. This virus is extremely common, but the majority of cases are cleared without any long-term effects or illnesses. To reduce your risk of HPV-related cancer, having regular STI check-ups and taking the HPV vaccine are important measures you can take.
The herpes virus family also includes infections such as genital herpes and genital warts, which can increase the chances of developing certain types of cancers including cervix, anus and penis cancer. Working together with a doctor to identify any sign or symptoms early on will help in quick diagnosis and possible prevention of Cancer development in such cases.
It’s important to be mindful when engaging in sexual activities that you always practice safe sex and ensure that both parties involved receive regular STI checkups for early detection if any infection were present. Additionally, receiving HPV vaccines when available to reduce your risk for developing high-risk strains which have strong links to certain types of cancer can help further minimize likelihoods of potential health complications related to certain STIs down the line.