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Having multiple sexual partners 'increases risk of cancer'

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Playing the field could be putting people at much greater risk of being diagnosed with cancer, a study reveals.

Those most likely to be diagnosed are people with ten or more sexual partners throughout their lifetime. And among women, a higher number of sexual partners is also linked to heightened odds of reporting a limiting long term condition, the findings indicate.

Few studies have looked at the potential impact of the number of sexual partners on wider health outcomes, so researchers from Anglia Ruskin University drew on information gathered for the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, a nationally representative tracking study of adults aged 50 and above living in England.

Almost 6,000 people with an average age of 64 were asked to rate their own health and report any long standing conditions.

The average age of participants was 64, and almost three out of four were married. Some 28.5 per cent of men said they had had 0-1 sexual partners to date; 29 per cent said they had had 2-4; 20 per cent reported 5-9; while 22 per cent said 10 or more. The equivalent figures for women were: just under 41 per cent; 35.5 per cent; just under 16 per cent; and just under 8 per cent.

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Smoking and drinking

Those who reported a higher tally of sexual partners were more likely to smoke, drink frequently, and do more vigorous physical activity on a weekly basis.

Compared with women who reported 0-1 sexual partners, those who said they had had 10 or more, were 91 per cent more likely to have been diagnosed with cancer.

Among the men, those who reported 2-4 lifetime sexual partners were 57 per cent more likely to have been diagnosed with cancer than were those who reported 0-1. And those who reported 10 or more, were 69 per cent more likely to have been diagnosed with the disease.

While the number of sexual partners was not associated with reported long standing conditions among the men, it was among the women.

The findings chime with those of previous studies, implicating sexually transmitted infections in the development of several types of cancer and hepatitis, suggest the researchers.

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