From the Journals

Number of sexual partners linked to cancer risk



A higher lifetime number of sexual partners was associated with a greater risk of being diagnosed with cancer in older adults, according to a recent study.

Additionally, among women, having had more lifetime partners was linked to higher odds of reporting a limiting long-standing condition.

Igor Grabovac, MD, of the Medical University of Vienna, and colleagues reported these results in BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health.

The exploratory analysis included 2,537 men and 3,185 women, aged 50 years and older, who were a part of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. The mean age of study subjects was 64 years in men and 65 years in women, and most were either married or cohabitating.

Researchers collected data on sexual history using a self-administered questionnaire, which privately recorded the lifetime number of sexual partners among study participants. Data on other health outcomes, such as limiting long-standing illness and cancer diagnoses, were also self-reported.

Among male participants, 28.5% reported a history of 0-1 lifetime sexual partners, 29.0% had 2-4 partners, 20.2% had 5-9 partners, and 22.2% had 10 or more partners. The respective measures in women were 40.8%, 35.5%, 15.8%, and 7.8%.

Among all participants, a greater number of sexual partners was associated with being single, younger age, and being in the least or greatest brackets of household income.

The researchers found that, compared with having 0-1 sexual partners, a lifetime history of 10 or more sexual partners was associated with a greater risk of reported cancer in both men (odds ratio, 1.69; P = .047) and women (OR, 1.91; P = .038).

In addition, women with a lifetime history of 10 or more sexual partners had greater odds of reporting a limiting long-standing condition (OR, 1.64; P = .007).

“We observed no statistically significant association between number of lifetime sexual partners and self-rated health, CHD [coronary heart disease], or stroke in either sex, or with limiting long-standing illness in men,” the researchers explained.

They acknowledged that a key limitation of the study was the self-reported nature of the data. As a result, further studies are required to establish causality.

“Sexual history may be a relevant clinical indicator for cancer risk in older patients,” they concluded.

No funding sources were reported. The authors reported having no conflicts of interest.

SOURCE: Grabovac I et al. BMJ Sex Reprod Health. 2020 Feb 13. doi: 10.1136/bmjsrh-2019-200352.

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