Could prostate cancer be caused by a STI?

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Scientists have claimed that prostate cancer may be a sexual transmitted disease which is caused by a common infection that is transferred during sexual intercourse.

During the testing of human prostate cells in a laboratory, researchers at the University of California discovered a sex infection named trichomoniasis which supports cancer growth.

Trichomoniasis is known as one of the most common non-viral sexually transmitted infections and around 275 million people globally are believed to have been infected by it. Males who have been infected may experience pain when urinating, along with a small white discharge from their penis. Females may suffer itching and soreness around their vaginal area, along with a discharge. Around 50% of all males and females do not indicate any symptoms at all.

The study which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) is a discussion of how this STI may increase the risk of males to cancer. Cancer Research UK has said that it is too early to add prostate cancer to the list of cancers that are caused by infections.

This recent research follows on from a study done by the Harvard School of Public Health during 2009, where it was found that 25% of males with prostate cancer indicated signs of trichomoniasis and were more likely to have advanced tumours.

A team which was led by Professor Patricia Johnson discovered the parasite which is responsible for the cause of trichomoniasis. Trichomonas vaginalis produces a protein which boosts the growth and progression of both benign and cancerous cells in the prostate.

The authors of the study have stated that more research is required as the cause of prostate cancer is unknown and this study does not show a definite link between the cancer and the STI.

The health information officer at Cancer Research UK, Nicola Smith, stated that the study is suggestive of the manner in which Trichomonas vaginalis may encourage the growth and development of prostate cells. However, this research was carried out in a laboratory and previous studies have not shown a distinctive link between the STI and prostate cancer. She said that there are still no lifestyle factors that have been determined which may affect the risk of the development of the disease.

Prostate cancer has become the most common cancer in males in the UK, with more than 40000 new cases being diagnosed on an annual basis.

Image Credit: enoch choi

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