STIs and Cancer

There are a number of risk factors for cancer; increasingly of interest to researchers is the link between cancer and viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections. Some sexually transmitted infections are among those that can increase the risk for developing certain cancers:

    • HPV, or human papillomavirus, is most commonly associated with cervical cancer, but it can cause other types of cancers as well. HPV is thought to be responsible for more than 90% of anal cancers, about 70% of vaginal and vulvar cancers, and 60% of penile cancers. About 60% to 70% of cancers of the oropharynx (back of the throat) may be linked to HPV as well. One important way to prevent HPV-related cancer is to get vaccinated against HPV.

    • Chronic hepatitis B infection can cause complications such as cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and even lead to liver cancer. The good news is that hepatitis B is preventable through vaccination. While not common, hepatitis C can be spread through vaginal or anal sex and infections can also cause liver cancer.

    • HIV patients are susceptible to several cancers including Kaposi sarcoma, a cancer targeting the lining of blood vessels

It’s important to note that most individuals with these infections won’t develop cancer but it’s a good idea to learn more about how to reduce your risk and take care of yourself. Both HPV and hepatitis B are preventable through vaccines, for example. Talk with your healthcare provider to see which vaccinations, tests and exams might be recommended for you.

The National Cancer Institute fact sheet is also a good resource to learn more about the link between infectious agents and cancer.