(RxWiki News) More and more research is finding how viruses and other diseases are connected with some cancers. Many of these conditions are caused by sexually transmitted infections (STI). One cancer has a new STI link.
Scientists have recently discovered that a STI called trichomonosis may be linked to prostate cancer.
With proper drug treatment, though, the STI can usually be eliminated, which in turn may prevent some prostate cancers.
"Get tested for STIs."
John Alderete, PhD, a professor of microbiology at Washington State University's School of Molecular Biosciences in Pullman, served as senior researcher on a lab study that may explain the link between trichomonosis and prostate cancer.
Often called “trich,” trichomonosis spreads through a parasite. This infection most often affects women ages 16 to 35, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, but it is also transmitted to men.
WSU cancer researcher Nancy Magnuson pinpointed the protein that leads from trichomonosis to cancer cell growth. Fellow WSU molecular biologist Ray Reeves explained the role of this protein in turning genes on and off. This reaction affects other proteins in the process that can cause cancer.
"It’s like switching a light switch on,” said Dr. Alderete. "Then, if you don’t control the brightness of that light, you can go blind. That’s the problem.”
Siobhan Sutcliffe, WSU epidemiologist and coauthor of this paper, had conducted a study in 2006 showing that men with trichomonosis have a 40 percent greater chance of developing prostate cancer. With infected women, there is a greater risk of pregnancy complications and contracting HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).
Dr. Sutcliffe said, however, that research establishing the connection between the STI and prostate cancer was not conclusive.
While more study needs to be done, Dr. Alderete hopes that knowledge of the mechanism in the trichomonosis-to-cancer process will lead to better diagnosis and treatment.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine says that diagnosis of this trichomonosis in men can be difficult. Symptoms including burning after urination or ejaculation, itching of urethra (the tube urine passes through as it exits the body), and slight discharge from urethra.
The antibiotic Flagyl (metronidazole) is commonly used to cure the infection, and a newer drug, called Tinidazole may also be taken. With proper treatments, the outcome is “likely to be excellent,” according to the National Library of Medicine.
Dr. Alderete stresses the importance of the study. “We’re going to have at least 10 million women infected this year and an equal number of men,” he said, “because they all get infected if they come into contact with an infected partner.”
The study was published August 9 in the journal PLoS Pathogens. No conflicts of interest were noted.