People who have 10 or more 'lovers' have an increased risk of cancer in old age

Interestingly, the study found that women had nearly double the risk if they had ten or more partners throughout their life

Having a colourful sex life often brings with it increased chances of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and infections (STD/STI) along with intended physical pleasure. However, a new study suggests that one could be diagnosed with more than just STDs and STIs in old age due to their sexual appetite during their younger years.

According to a study by researchers from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, having more than ten sexual partners in one's lifetime increases his or her chances of being diagnosed with cancer in old age. Interestingly, the study found that women had nearly double the risk if they had ten or more partners throughout their life when compared to women who had only one or none. The study also found that people with more sexual partners also drank and smoked more but also exercised more.

'We expected there to be an association between number of sexual partners and cancer risk as previous research has shown that specific STIs may lead to several cancers," said Lee Smith, co-author of the study, to MailOnline.

Representational Picture Wikimedia Commons

STI's and cancer

Many known sexually transmitted diseases increase the chances of developing certain forms of cancer in both men and women. For example, certain types of Human papillomavirus (HPV) infections, can increase the chances of cervical cancer in women and penile cancer in men.

Gathering 'colourful' data

The study gathered data from 5,722 respondents—2537 men and 3185 women—whose average age was 64 and were married. In 2012-2013, as a part of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), they were asked about the number of sexual partners they had had in their lifetime. Their responses were classified as 0-1; 2-4; 5-9; and 10 or more sexual partners.

In addition to this, enquiries about their health were made and they were questioned about any persistent health conditions and complications that impaired their regular activities. Other information that the researchers collected included age, ethnicity, household income, marital status, lifestyle information such as drinking, smoking and physical activity, and the existence of depressive symptoms.

Increased cancer risk among women

While analysing the data, the researchers were able to establish a statistically significant link. Among the male respondents, nearly 29 percent reported having one or zero sexual partners, 29 percent had two to four, 20 percent had five to nine and 22 percent reported having ten or more partners in their lifetime.

However, among women, the equivalent figures were significantly lower. It was nearly 41 percent for one or zero sexual partners, 36 percent for two to four partners, 16 percent for five to nine partners and eight percent for ten or more.

Couple Pixabay

In comparison to women who reported having one or no partners, women who reported having had 10 or more partners had 91 percent more likeliness of being diagnosed with cancer. Likewise, men who reported having had ten or more partners in their lifetime were 64 percent likely of being diagnosed with cancer as against men who reported having only one or no partner.

Additionally, the likeliness of reporting a limiting and long-term health condition was 64 percent in women with ten or more partners when compared to those with one or no sexual partners. "It is interesting the risk is higher in women when compared to men," said Smith to Reuters in an email. "This may be because the link between certain STIs and cancer is stronger in women."

Taking the results with a pinch of salt

While the study does suggest a corresponding link between the increased risk of cancer and a larger number of sexual partners, the study does not provide a cause. STI's are a possible explanation but not the only one as other factors contribute to increased cancer risks as well.

Natasha Paton, Cancer Research UK's health information manager, who was not a part of the study, told The Sun, "This is an interesting piece of research but unfortunately it didn't fully take into consideration two key cancer risk factors – smoking and weight."

Also, the study did not present information on the specific kinds of cancer reported. "We also don't know which cancer types were linked because the number of cases diagnosed in the study was too small," added Paton.