PULLMAN, Wash.Researchers have identified a way in which men can develop prostate cancer after contracting trichomoniasis, a curable but often overlooked sexually transmitted disease.
Previous studies have teased out a casual, epidemiological correlation between the two diseases, but this latest study suggests a more tangible biological mechanism.
John Alderete, a professor at Washington State University's School of Molecular Biosciences, says the trichomoniasis parasite activates a suite of proteins, the last of which makes sure the proteins stay active.
"It's like switching a light switch on," he says. "Then, if you don't control the brightness of that light, you can go blind. That's the problem."
Alderete and colleagues at WSU and Washington University in St. Louis report their findings in the recent PLoS Pathogens.
Caused by a protozoan parasite, trichomoniasis is often referred to as the most common curable sexually transmitted infection. However, most infected people have no symptoms, so it often goes untreated.
"Most women, it's the Number One sexually transmitted infection," says Alderete. "We're going to have at least 10 million women infected this year and an equal number of men because they all get infected if they come into contact with an infected partner."
Infected women have a greater risk of pregnancy complications and HIV. Infected men have a 40 percent greater chance of developing prostate cancer, according to a 2006 study led by Siobhan Sutcliffe, a Washington University epidemiologist and co-author of the recent PLoS Pathogens paper.
Sutcliffe cautions that the epidemiological link she found is not conclusive and compares the science to the early connections drawn between smoking and lung cancer.
"It's still in a really exploratory phase," she says.
A study after her 2006 research found no connection between trichomoniasis and prostate cancer, while a third out of Harvard found an even gr
|Contact: John Alderete, WSU professor of molecular biosciences|
Washington State University