Prostate Cancer Could Be Linked to Parasite
Trichomonas vaginalis, a common sexually-transmitted parasite, could be involved with the development of prostate cancer, according to research published last year.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that this parasite affects about 3.7 million Americans. However, most people don’t know they’re infected. Symptoms, such as genital itching and irritation, occur about 30% of the time, the CDC says.
Scientists have discovered that the parasite secretes a protein called TvMIF, which can interfere with a person’s immune system and cause inflammation.
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Researchers from the United States, Italy, and Argentina examined how TvMIF interacted with prostate cancer cells in a lab. They found that TvMIF spurs the growth of both normal and cancer cells. But cancer cells grow more quickly than healthy ones when exposed to TvMIF.
This does not mean that prostate cancer is a sexually-transmitted infection. Not all prostate cancer patients are infected with Trichomonas vaginalis. Still, the connection is worth considering, especially in light of safe sex practices.
Trichomonas vaginalis can be transmitted through penile-vaginal intercourse and from vagina-to-vagina contact. Most people do not have symptoms and unknowingly pass the parasite on to sexual partners. Left untreated, it can remain in the body for months or years.
Infections are usually treated with medication. Using condoms correctly can reduce the risk of transmission, but not prevent it.
If you have questions about any sexually-transmitted infection or safe sex practices, be sure to ask your doctor. It’s also important to know your partner’s sexual history and infection status. Click here for tips on having that conversation.
“Sexually transmitted infection linked to prostate cancer”
(June 8, 2014)
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Twu, Olivia, et al.
“Trichomonas vaginalis homolog of macrophage migration inhibitory factor induces prostate cell growth, invasiveness, and inflammatory responses”
(Full-text. June 3, 2014)
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
“Trichomoniasis - CDC Fact Sheet”
(Last updated: April 28, 2015)