Can Cancer Be Transmitted Sexually?

by Dr Amit Jotwani

This is the brain teaser that the team is out to solve in this article. Let’s take a look at the available facts! Cancer is not contagious.

The American Cancer Society says:

Cancer is NOT contagious. A healthy person cannot “catch” cancer from someone who has it. There is no evidence that close contact or things like sex, kissing, touching, sharing meals, or breathing the same air can spread cancer from one person to another.

Source: American Cancer Society Guidelines


However, certain types of cancers are caused by sexually transmitted viruses

Research has shown that some variations of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) are linked to cancers in different sites of the human anatomy, including the cervix, vagina, vulva, penis, anus, and some cancers of the mouth, throat, head, and neck.


Other viruses that can cause cancer

Aside from the commonly known fallouts associated with HPV, there are other sexually transmitted viruses which are commonly linked with different variations of lymphomas, sarcomas, and invasive cancers, such as:


Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

The virus that’s famous for causing AIDS (Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome), is often found in patients who develop Cervical Cancer (Invasive), Kaposi Sarcoma and some variations of Lymphoma. In many such cases, at least one other virus (usually either HHV-8 or HPV) plays a major role.


Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV)

The Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) is known to cause cancers of the nose and throat (nasopharyngeal cancer), lymphoma of the stomach, Hodgkin lymphoma, and Burkitt lymphoma.



Hepatitis B/C Viruses (HBV/HCV)

The viruses Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) and Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) can increase the risk of Liver Cancer (Hepatocellular Carcinoma).


Human Herpes Virus (HHV-8)

The Type-8 Human Herpes Virus (HHV-8) – sometimes referred to as the Kaposi Sarcoma Herpes Virus (KSHV), is a usual suspect for a specific type of cancer known as Kaposi Sarcoma. The chances of getting Kaposi Sarcoma to increase multifold if the patient in concern is also affected by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) – the same virus that causes AIDS.

Patients whose immune system is weakened or compromised after receiving prolonged chemotherapy/radiotherapy can also be affected by this condition.


Human T-lymphotropic Virus-1 (HTLV-1)

There are a few known variations of Blood Cancer, such as Lymphocytic Leukemia and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) which are caused by the Human T-lymphotropic Virus-1(HTLV-1).


Safeguarding yourself against cancers caused by viruses

While there are age-appropriate vaccinations available today, which ensure that subjects do not develop such cancers at a later age, the general guidelines that apply to safe sexual practices are applicable here too. Adopting contraceptive methods that prevent the transmission of such viruses, avoiding unprotected sex, and getting screened regularly for such virus panels are some of the best ways in which such cancers can be avoided.


This is a part of our series of Cancer Mythbusters.


Related Posts

Leave a Comment