BY DR ABIA NZELU, Secretary, Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP- Nigeria)
(Presented @ coolwazobiainfo on Friday 17th of May, 2013)

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What is the relationship between cancer and sex?
Did you know that your sexual behaviour can affect your risk of cancer? Research has revealed that infection with microorganisms (germs) is an important cause of some cancers. Worldwide, more than 1 out of 8 of the new cancer cases in 2008, making about 2 million affected people, were caused by infections. In less-developed countries like Nigeria the rate of cancer due to infection is even higher (1 out of 4).

In addition, cancers related to infection have high death rates, and it is estimated that up to 1 in 5 cancer deaths, i.e. 1.5 million deaths, in 2008 were caused by infections.

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), there are 10 microorganisms (germs) that have the highest cancer-risk. These include Human papillomavirus (HPV)- see below; Hepatitis B virus (HBV) (causes liver cancer which affects 9000 Nigerians every year out of which 8900 die); Hepatitis C virus (HCV) (also causes liver cancer); Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) (causes cancer of the lymph nodes which kills one Nigerian every 2 hours); human T cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) (causes blood cancer which kills 7 Nigerians every day); Helicobacter pylori (causes stomach cancer which kills 5 Nigerians every day); human herpes virus type 8 (HHV-8; also known as Kaposi’s sarcoma herpes virus); the parasitic liver flukes (liver cancer); and the parasite Schistosoma haematobium (bladder cancer). Most of these organisms are sexually transmitted.

Today, we will focus on the most important of these i.e. the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).

What is Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)?
It is a virus which can infect the genital areas (private parts) of both men and women. It usually has no signs or symptoms. Most of the time, HPV goes away by itself within years and does not cause health problems.

Why does HPV go away on its own in some people and not in all cases?
It is thought that the immune system fights off HPV naturally. It is only when HPV remains in the cells for many years that it can cause cancer.

How common is HPV?
It is most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the world, infecting 630m (cf. HIV= 40m).

What are the different types of HPV?
There are many subtypes but the most important are type 16 &18 which cause cancers; 6 &11 cause genital warts & RRP in children.

How could I get HPV?
HPV is passed on through genital or skin-to-skin contact, most often during vaginal or anal sex. Transmission is not reliably prevented by condom use because the virus can be transmitted by intimate skin-to-skin contact.

What can HPV do to my body?
HPV can infect the genital areas in different ways: Some HPV types can cause changes that can lead to cancer over time. Other HPV types can cause changes that lead to genital warts in men and women.

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HPV is the root cause of more than 1 out of 20 cases of cancers, including all cervical cancers (which kills one woman every hour in Nigeria) and a substantial percentage of cancers at other sites such as external private parts of males and females (vagina, Vulva, penis, scrotum, perineum), anus, head/neck, mouth, throat, nose, tonsil, skin, nail-bed and conjunctiva (eye).


Can HPV affect children?
Yes. It can be transmitted from a mother to her child during childbirth and can lead to Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis (RRP) (asthma-like condition) which can cause the death of the innocent child.

What are the Risk Factors?
The risk factors are mostly related to sexual behaviors. These include:
– A high number of lifetime sex partners (oral, anal, and/or vaginal)- higher among those with more than 20 sex partners (however, a woman may get infected from her first intercourse)
– Early age (≤19 years) at first intercourse, and
– Smoking- higher among those who smoke more than 20 cigarettes daily
– Poor genital hygiene

How can I prevent HPV infection and consequences?
Join Dr Abia on Friday 24th of May @ coolwazobiainfo for details


© 2013 Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP- Nigeria)

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