The high levels of prostaglandin, a hormone-like molecule found in semen, may fuel cervical and womb (uterine) cancers in women, say scientists from the Medical Research Council, UK. They say women with either womb or cervical cancer should seriously consider asking their partners to use a condom.

You can read about this in the journal Human Reproduction.

The cells in the lining of the female reproductinve organs contain prostagrandin – it regulates cell growth and makes the womb thicken and also shed during the menstrual cycle. However, prostaglandin levels in semen are about one thousand times higher.

By exposing cervical and uterine cell receptor molecules to prostaglandin, the scientists found that the signalling between the cells increased – leading to faster tumour growth.

The scientists say that by preventing prostaglandin from reaching the tumour cell receptors, there may be treatment one day to undermine the tumour’s growth.

Team leader, Dr. Henry Jabbour, said “Sexually active women who are at risk of cervical or uterine cancer should encourage their partners to wear a condom to prevent increased exposure to the prostaglandins that might make their condition worse. This also highlights the potential for a new therapeutic approach that will tackle both possible sources of prostaglandin – those produced naturally by women and those introduced to the body by sperm.”

Jabbour believes it is quite possible that pre-cancerous cells may also have prostaglandin receptors. He said further research is needed.

Cervical cancer is more common in the developing world where screening programmes are less common. In the United Kingdom, for example, screening programmes detect most abnormal cell changes before the cancer progresses. Cervical cancer is usually triggered by long-term human papilloma virus (HPV) infection. Prostaglandins do not cause the cancer – they fuel tumour growth, say the researchers.

?Seminal plasma and prostaglandin E2 up-regulate fibroblast growth factor 2 expression in endometrial adenocarcinoma cells via E-series prostanoid-2 receptor-mediated transactivation of the epidermal growth factor receptor and extracellular signal-regulated kinase pathway?
S. Battersby, K.J. Sales, A.R. Williams, R.A. Anderson, S. Gardner 1, and H.N. Jabbour 1
Human Reproduction, doi:10.1093/humrep/del328
View The Abstract Online

Medical Research Council

Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today