Having more than 10 sexual partners throughout your life 'raises the risk of cancer'

cropped view of boyfriend and girlfriend with barefoot lying in bed
The risk of cancer was found to rise alongside the number of sexual partners. (Getty Images)

Having 10 or more sexual partners throughout your life may raise the risk of cancer, research suggests.

Scientists from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge asked more than 5,000 adults how many people they had “been intimate” with.

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The participants then rated their health, noting any long-standing conditions.

Results revealed the women who had 10 or more lifetime sexual partners were 91% more likely to be diagnosed with any form of cancer than those who were virgins or had slept with just one person.

Men with 10 or more sexual partners were 69% more likely to be told they had the disease.

Although unclear exactly why this occurs, sexually-transmitted infections have been linked to the development of certain malignant tumours.

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Four in five Brits catch human papillomavirus (HPV) at some point in their lives, with the virus spreading through sexual contact.

While most people’s immune system fights it off, HPV is behind 99.7% of cervical-cancer cases.

It has also been linked to cancers of the anus, mouth and throat.

Overall, one in two people born after 1960 in the UK will develop cancer at some point in their life.

Illustration of a cancer cell.
Certain cancers are linked to the sexually-transmitted virus HPV. (Getty Images)

The Anglia Ruskin scientists drew on information from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, which tracked adults over 50.

Between 2012 and 2013, the participants were asked about their sexual history.

Of those who answered, 2,537 were men and 3,185 were women.

Results suggest having more sexual partners increases the risk of cancer for both genders.

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The men who reported having between two and four were 57% more likely to be diagnosed with the disease than those with zero or one.

“The heightened risk of cancer might be driven by those types known to be associated with [sexually transmitted infections]”, the scientists wrote in the BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health.

They suggest doctors could ask about a patient’s sexual history when screening them for cancer.

Women who reported having five or more partners were also 64% more likely to have a “limiting chronic condition”.

For unclear reasons, the same was not found for the men.