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STDs and Cancer Risk: How Does Sexual Health Affect Overall Health?

In 2012, President Barack Obama declared April as Cancer Control Month, a time to spotlight and celebrate the many advancements in cancer treatment, including important prevention efforts such as cancer screenings.

Although most people are very aware of cancer and its affects on people, many are not aware of how their actions and other aspects of their health can increase their cancer risk. When it comes to your sexual health and cancer risk, you should be aware that contracting an STD can increase your risk for many types of cancer.

Here’s the low-down on STDs and cancer risk.

Cancer Risk & Your Sexual Health

Human Papillomaviruses (HPV)

TEST SMARTLY LABS | STDs and Cancer RiskHuman papillomaviruses are more than 150 related viruses, 40+ of which are spread in skin-to-skin sexual contact. HPV is a very common STD, with more than half of all sexually-active people becoming infected with an HPV during their lifetime. HPV infections can be low-risk — meaning they do not cause cancer, but do cause skin warts around the genitals and anus — or high-risk, meaning they do cause cancer. At least a dozen high-risk HPV strains have been identified, and worldwide, high-risk HPV infections cause 5% of all cancer.

If your high-risk HPV strain persists untreated for years, it can eventually develop into cancer, including cervical cancer, anala cancer, vaginal cancer, vulvar cancer, or penile cancer. It may even develop into oropharyngeal or throat cancer. Studies have shown that oropharyngeal cancer will soon surpass cervical cancer as the disease most caused by HPV.

Hepatitis B or C

According to a 2010 report by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, by 2020 150,000 Americans will die due to liver cancer and end-stage liver disease linked to hepatitis B and hepatitis C infection. Although 3.5 – 5.3 million people are living with these chronic STDs, many times the infected are unaware until most serious symptoms of cirrhosis or liver cancer arise — in fact, 65 – 75% of those infected with hepatitis B or C know about their infection. Both strains of hepatitis are the leading causes of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer.


HIV-positive people have a higher risk of certain kinds of cancer when compared to uninfected people in the same age group. This is because HIV weakens the immune system, rendering your body less able to fight off infections that can cause cancer. Common cancers linked to AIDS include Kaposi sarcoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and cervical cancer. Statistically, HIV-positive individuals are thousands of times more likely to be diagnosed with Kaposi sarcoma than a non-HIV-positive individual, 70 times more likely to be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and 5 times as likely to receive a cervical cancer diagnosis. They are also 25 times as likely to develop anal cancer, 5 times as likely to develop liver cancer, 3 times as likely to develop lung cancer, and 10 times as likely to develop Hodgkin lymphoma.

Lower Your Cancer Risk – Get STD Screening Today

Cancer treatment is much more effective when infection is caught early on. One way to identify cancer early is to stay on top of any STD infections you have.

This April, honor Cancer Control Month by monitoring your sexual health! TEST SMARTLY LABS are nationwide walk-in facilities offering secure, reliable, easy STD screenings, including tests for HIV and hepatitis B or C.

To learn more about how STD screenings can lower your cancer risk, locate your nearest TEST SMARTLY LABS today.

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