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Br J Cancer. 2019 Apr;120(8):855-860. doi: 10.1038/s41416-019-0422-9. Epub 2019 Mar 21.

Sexually transmitted infections and risk of epithelial ovarian cancer: results from the Nurses' Health Studies.

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Hormones and Cancer Group, Division of Cancer Epidemiology, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg, Germany.
Ob/Gyn Epidemiology Center, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.
Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA.
Infections and Cancer Epidemiology, Division of Molecular Diagnostics of Oncogenic Infections, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg, Germany.
Department of Cancer Epidemiology, Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa, FL, USA.



Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are associated with pelvic inflammatory disease and tubal pathologies. Given the tubal origin of a proportion of ovarian cancers, STIs may be relevant in their aetiology.


Antibodies indicating past infection with Chlamydia trachomatis, Mycoplasma genitalium, herpes simplex virus type 2, and against human papillomavirus oncogenes (L1 and E6+E7 oncoproteins of types 16, 18, 45) were measured in prediagnosis plasma samples in a nested case-control study in the Nurses' Health Studies (n = 337 cases 1:1 matched to controls). Logistic regression was used to estimate multivariable-adjusted relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals [CIs] comparing women seropositive vs. seronegative among all cases (invasive and borderline), invasive (n = 257), and invasive serous ovarian cancers; n = 170), and borderline ovarian tumours (n = 80).


C. trachomatis seropositivity was associated with higher risk of ovarian cancer overall (RR = 2.07 [1.25-3.43]); results were similar for invasive, invasive serous, and borderline tumours. We observed no associations for the other STIs. Relative to women seronegative to all infections, strongest associations were observed for seropositivity to C. trachomatis plus another STI (2.74 [1.20-6.27]; C. trachomatis alone, 1.88 [1.03-3.42]; all cases); however, the RRs were not significantly different.


C. trachomatis infection may increase ovarian cancer risk; additional studies are required.


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