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Young men who become infected with the sexually transmitted infection (STI) genital herpes may be twice as likely to develop prostate cancer by middle age, according to an American study.
Led by investigators from the University of Iowa in Iowa City, the study investigated blood samples from 267 military personnel, who were diagnosed with prostate cancer, on average at the age of 48. Herpes simplex virus 2 was associated with a twofold risk of prostate cancer diagnoses in middle age.
Dr Theodore Rosen, an expert in the field, said herpes should be taken as an early warning sign to check someone for prostate cancer. He said: “When you diagnose genital herpes in someone who’s 17, hook him up with a urologist pretty quickly. He needs to start having urologic exams and PSA screening at an early age.”
Around 17% of American men develop prostate cancer. This study suggests that genital herpes could be an important factor behind this trend.
There is no cure for genital herpes. Drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline has announced that it is halting further development of its long-awaited herpes simplex vaccine, known as Simplirix. Plans to develop the drug were shelved when an eight year study, involving more than 8,000 women, suggested the vaccine in its current state was ineffective. Treatments are available that can reduce the severity of herpes outbreaks.