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Link between multiple sexual partners and risk of cancer

 History of ten or more lifetime sexual partners is linked to cancer development (Photo: iStock)

It is reported in the BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health journal that a history of 10 or more lifetime sexual partners is linked to cancer development.

The study found out that men who had 10 or more sexual partners had up to 70 per cent likely chance of developing cancer.

Women had even more dramatic findings that with over 10 sexual partners, a woman is at an elevated 91 per cent risk of developing cancer compared to the one with 0 to 10 partners.

It shows that women with higher numbers of sexual partners were more likely to develop chronic health conditions when compared with men with similar behaviour.

“This gender difference is interesting, but an explanation is elusive, especially when men report a greater number of lifetime sexual partners than women and women are more likely to seek medical screening”, as reported in a similar study.

Where is the link?                                                

Since there is no scientific study that implicates sex as a factor that causes cancer, the connection that numerous sex partners expose one to the incidence of sexually transmitted infection is the strongest connection to cancer. For instance;

Numerous sexual partners could expose one to HIV infection, which contributes to the development of cancers such as Kaposi’s sarcoma and lymphoma. Viral hepatitis (B and C) infection increases the risk of cancer in the liver Several strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) are responsible for cervical cancer

The study highlights that the consequences of risky sexual behaviour during younger years catch up over time with baggage of factors associated with STIs and cancer. Young women of childbearing age are typically sexually active.

Additionally, societal double standards that offer a more favourable attitude toward promiscuity in men rather than in women make cervical cancer mistaken as a disease of promiscuity.

Possible stigma

According to the Aga Khan University Hospital, all women are at risk of cervical cancer.

In fact, most sexually active women will have HPV at one point or another in their lifetime but only a section of them will develop cervical cancer.

According to a study done in rural Kenya many patients report facing the stigma that they must have done something wrong to deserve their cancer condition.

Cervical cancer, an illness that can be prevented through vaccination, is best prevented before the onset of sexual activity.

Vaccination of young girls in Kenya has been viewed as a license to carefree sexual activity rather than as a preventive measure for this serious disease.

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