Breast cancer may be sexually transmitted

By | December 16, 2006

Breast cancer may be sexually transmitted

Breast cancer could be sexually transmitted, says a researcher who has found the same virus that causes cervical cancer in breast cancer tumours from Australian women.

“Ten studies published since 1999 have identified the human papillomavirus in breast tumours. But more studies are needed to show how closely the two are linked”

Emeritus Professor James Lawson of the University of New South Wales and colleagues have found the same form of the human papillomavirus (HPV) associated with cervical cancer in almost half the breast tumour samples they tested. It’s the first study of its kind in Australia, although international studies have also found cervical cancer-related HPV in breast cancer cells.

He says while the evidence is far from conclusive, “it’s possible and totally worthy of investigation” to suspect that HPV could also cause breast cancer. Lawson says it’s possible that HPV is spread by sexual activity or during showers or baths, when the virus could be transferred from the genital area to the breasts via the nipple ducts.

“We know that the virus explodes out of the cell and is spread by touch, so it’s fairly obvious that it could be spread by sexual activity to the breast, you could also argue that it would be spread by washing and bathing,” he says. Lawson says more research is needed to establish whether HPV is actually causing the breast cancer or if women with breast cancer are more prone to infection with the virus. – abc

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