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HPV research raises questions about douching.

NEW YORK -- Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a group of more than 150 related viruses that in women can lead to cervical, vaginal and vulvar HPV cancers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Other potential cancers from HPV infection--men are vulnerable as well--include mouth/throat and anus/rectum.

HPV is transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact. One can acquire HPV by having vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has the virus. HPV is most commonly spread during vaginal or anal sex, according to CDC. The prevalent virus can be passed along even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms, and often those symptoms develop years after infection, making it hard to know when infection occurred.

But there's another potential method of contracting HPV, according to a study from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, which looked at the relationship between douching and HPV in 1,271 women ages 20 to 49, who participated in the university's nationwide survey. Researchers conducting the study determined that vaginal douching can increase the risk of HPV.

The study's finding could be significant, as an estimated 20% to 40% of American women between ages 15 and 44 say they use a vaginal douche. Higher rates are seen in teens and African-American and Hispanic women. Besides making themselves feel fresher, women say they douche to get rid of unpleasant odors, wash away menstrual blood after their period, avoid getting sexually transmitted diseases and prevent a pregnancy after intercourse.

Douching has also been associated with increased risk of yeast infections, as doing so might push the bacteria causing the infection to other areas such as the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries.

But while douching has immediate positive affects for the many women who use a douche, the University of Texas study, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, found douching increased the likelihood of a woman being infected with a greater number of strains by 26%.

More concerning, douching was found to increase the risk of infection, with a greater number of cancer-causing HPV strains rising by 40%. Additionally, vaginal douching has been found to nearly double a woman's risk of contracting ovarian cancer, according to a new nationwide U.S. survey by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. However, there are vaccines that can prevent infection with the types of HPV that most commonly cause cancer.

The CDC now recommends 11to 12-year-olds get two doses of HPV vaccine.

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Publication:Chain Drug Review
Date:Feb 27, 2017
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