Is Bladder Cancer Contagious?
Last updated: February 2023
I came across a few blogs, articles, and other writing that were focused on one topic of bladder cancer. Many people wanted to know if cancer, specifically bladder cancer, was contagious. Could you catch cancer like a sexually transmitted infection (STI), like gonorrhea or chlamydia?
Going by the number of questions that are out there, this seems to be a serious concern for many people. So in this article, let's try to answer this question.
Is cancer contagious?
The answer is no, according to the American Cancer Society. They go on to say, "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."1
The confusion about what is contagious
Let's think about it this way. There are some infections that can be passed between people, which are believed to lead to the development of cancer. With that said, it is not the cancer that is contagious. It is the infection that may, or most likely may not, lead to the development of cancer.2
Additionally, these infections may lead to cancer in many different ways. For example, some infections can cause inflammation that could lead to the development of cancer. Other infections cause immunosuppression or even directly cause cellular mutations and damage DNA.2
Sexually transmitted infections linked to cancer
Below, there are a few sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that are known to be related to various forms of cancer. Is cancer an STI?
In a word: no. There are still a few forms of cancer that can be related to a sexually transmitted infection. They include:2
- Human papillomavirus (HPV): HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease, and it has been linked with cervical cancer, anal cancer, penile cancer, vaginal cancer, and head and neck cancers. In most cases, infection with HPV goes away on its own, but when persistent, may lead to inflammation and cancer. Not all strains of HPV are linked with cancer.
- Hepatitis B and hepatitis C virus: Both hepatitis B and C are associated with liver cancer and together are the greatest cause of liver cancer worldwide.
- HIV/AIDS: There are several types of cancer associated with HIV/AIDS, related to immunosuppression.
- Human herpes virus Type 8 (HHV-8): or Kaposi sarcoma herpes virus most commonly leads to Kaposi's sarcoma in people with HIV.
Cancer is complex
In closing, you may want to think about it this way: if cancer were contagious, we would have cancer epidemics like the flu and Ebola. Further, you may notice a few people who are related will develop cancer. They share the same DNA and also probably exposed to the same environmental factors (i.e. family trips to the beach, developing skin cancer).
If you are with a new sexual partner, it's always a good idea to practice safe sex to avoid exposure to viruses that are related to cancer development. Additionally, you may want to consider getting vaccinated against some of the infections listed above. Just something for you to think about.
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