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Researchers have found a strong association between a common sexually transmitted infection and an aggressive form of prostate cancer. The study, conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women's Hospital, both in Boston, Massachusetts,was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.1

The infection, known as Trichomonas vaginalis, infects an estimated 174 million people globally each year and can cause inflammation of the prostate. Men may not realize they are infected because they may not have any symptoms. Prostate inflammation appears to play an important role in the development and progression of prostate cancer.

In the study, T vaginalis was found to be associated with a greater than 2-fold increase in the risk of prostate cancer that was advanced at the time of diagnosis and a nearly 3-fold increase in prostate cancer that would lead to death. Researchers analyzed blood samples from 673 patients with prostate cancer from the Physicians' Health Study. They compared their infection status with that of 673 men who had not been diagnosed with the disease. The samples were collected approximately 10 years before the men were diagnosed.

Further research is needed to confirm the findings. If they are confirmed, however, the infection, which is easily treated with antibiotics,may be 1 of the few known, potentially modifiable risk factors for aggressive prostate cancer, the authors note.

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  • 1
    Stark JR, Judson G, Alderete JF. Prospective study of Trichomonas vaginalis infection and prostate cancer incidence and mortality: Physicians' Health Study. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2009; 101: 1406-1411.