While it’s completely okay to have sex with whoever you want and it is completely upto you to choose your sexual partners and explore your desires–having 10 or more partners over your lifetime can up your risk of cancer. We aren’t saying it–this research is.
The research published in the journal BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health found that women with a higher number of sexual partners are linked to heightened odds of reporting a long term health condition.
The research team at Anglia Ruskin University in the UK drew on information gathered for the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), a national representative tracking study of older adults living in England.
The participants were asked about the number of sexual partners they’ve had over their life span. The study was conducted on 7079 participants out of which 5722 participants responded to the question. It included 2,537 men and 3,185 women. Responses were categorised as 0-1; 2-4; 5-9; and 10 or more sexual partners.
The average age of participants was 64, and almost three out of four were married. Some 28.5% of men said they have had zero to one sexual partner; 29% said they had had two to four; 20% reported five to nine; while 22% reported 10 or more. Whereas 41% of the women have had zero to one sexual partner, 35.5% have had two to four, 16% have had five to nine, and just under eight per cent reported 10 or more.
A higher number of sexual partners was associated with younger age, single status, and being in the highest or lowest brackets of household wealth in both the sexes. The study found that those who reported a higher tally of sexual partners were also more likely to smoke, drink frequently, and do more vigorous physical activity on a weekly basis.
When all the data were analysed, a statistically significant association emerged between the number of lifetime sexual partners and the risk of cancer diagnosis among both sexes.
Compared with women who reported zero to one sexual partner, those who said they had had 10 or more, were 91% more likely to have been diagnosed with cancer. Among men, those who reported two to four sexual partners were 57% more likely to have been diagnosed with cancer than were those who reported zero to one. And those who reported 10 or more, were 69% more likely to have been diagnosed with the disease.
While the number of sexual partners was not associated with reported long standing conditions amongst the men, it was found among the women. Women who reported five to nine or over 10 lifetime sexual partners were 64% more likely to have a limiting chronic condition than those who said they have had zero to one.
This is an observational study, and as such, can’t establish the cause. Nevertheless, the findings chime with those of previous studies, implicating sexually transmitted infections in the development of several types of cancer and hepatitis, the researchers suggested.