Prostate cancer may be caused by a bug, a new study suggests, but researchers say it’s too early to definitively link the high incidence disease to a virus.
Scientists say there are indications that prostate cancer may be a sexually transmitted disease, passed on during intercourse by a common infection. However, experts are not yet convinced.
A group of scientists at the University of California conducted the study in which they analyzed human prostate cells in a lab and found the STD trichomoniasis contributed to cancer growth. However, more research is needed to categorically link the illness to a virus.
Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease and a common cause of vaginitis — an inflammation of the vagina — which is caused by a parasite and affects both sexes.
The virus is believed to affect about 275 million people in the world and is the most common sexually transmitted disease. Symptoms often include pain, burning or itching in the penis, urethra, or vagina.
This new study connecting prostate cancer with trichomoniasis is not the first to do so. In 2009, a study — conducted on 673 men — found that roughly one-quarter of them showed signs of the infection, which made them more likely to have prostate cancer.
Leading researcher at the University of California, Patricia Johnson, along with her colleagues, found the parasite that causes trichomoniasis – Trichomonas vaginalis – secretes a protein that causes inflammation and increased growth and invasion of benign and cancerous prostate cells, according to the BBC.
The scientists say more studies need to be conducted to support their findings, which — if proven true — could be revolutionary in the treatment of the deadly disease that kills millions of men each year.
Nicola Smith, health information officer at Cancer Research UK, said:
“This study suggests a possible way the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis could encourage prostate cancer cells to grow and develop more quickly. But the research was only done in the lab, and previous evidence in patients failed to show a clear link between prostate cancer and this common sexually transmitted infection. There’s been a lot of research into prostate cancer risk and we’re working hard to piece together the puzzle. But there are still no known lifestyle factors that seem to affect the risk of developing the disease – and no convincing evidence for a link with infection. The risk of prostate cancer is known to increase with age.”
According to the National Cancer Institute, about 233,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and 29,480 will die from it over the course of 2014. The disease is more common in men over 70 and appears to run in families.
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