New research to be presented at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in April suggests that women with chronic chlamydia infections are twice as likely as women without the sexually transmitted infection to develop ovarian cancer.
Researchers looked at a Polish study involving 278 women with ovarian cancer and 556 women who did not have the disease, and a U.S. study that involved 160 women with ovarian cancer and 159 without cancer. The researchers tested study participants’ blood samples for an antibody indicating prior chlamydia infection and found that women with ovarian cancer were twice as likely to have chlamydia antibodies.
This research is significant: Chlamydia is the second most common sexually transmitted infection worldwide (after HPV), and affects about 1.5 million people in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although chlamydia can be treated with antibiotics, the sexually transmitted infection may not cause symptoms and often goes undetected for months or years. Over time, chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women, leading to infertility.
Ovarian cancer, the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths in U.S. women, often does not cause noticeable symptoms in its early stages and as a result isn’t diagnosed until the disease has spread.