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STD Season
Summer Is Coming, And So Are Higher STD Risks

March 26th, 2004

By Ken McGrath :eCureMe Staff Writer
April 14th, 2004 : Physician Reviewed

It’s not as easy to see as sunburn, but as summer rolls around, your risk of developing an STD may be climbing with the temperature. A host of research that has been building since summer suggests certain STDs are transmitted in different patterns, and can have an easier time developing in the body, during summertime.

The risks are inseparable from two of the things Americans love most about the season: vacationing and soaking up the sun.

As millions take to the skies and roads seeking a break in the routine, they may be more likely to pick up a souvenir they hadn’t planned on. A survey of British visitors to a Spanish resort, published last winter, found that substantial numbers of those who sample the local nightlife during their travels have unprotected sex with a partner they’ve just met on vacation. One in four men and one in seven women reported they had sex with more than one person during their stay. One in ten men and just less than one in twenty women reported six or more partners.

This relaxing of sexual behavior while traveling can lead to more infections, as well as infections that are more difficult to treat. One in twelve men surveyed reported that he had sex with a foreign partner while away from home. Previous research has found that when men who have sex on vacation contract gonorrhea from a foreign partner, the bacteria that causes the disease is more than twice as likely to be resistant to treatment than if they had contracted it at home.

However, even sex that doesn’t occur on vacation can be more risky during the summer. A recent review of data on the incidence of Human Papillomavirus (also known as Genital Warts) presented to the American Association of Cancer Research found that diagnoses of the disease reach a peak during August, which also happens to be the sunniest month in the area where the data was collected. Detection of the virus fell sharply in September, as fall started to roll in. Connecting this phenomenon with other data, researchers found that the spike in genital warts cases wasn’t the result of people having more sex. The answer? The researchers hypothesized that women were being exposed to a constant level of infection year-round, but during the summer their increased exposure to sunlight reduced their immune reactions, allowing more cases to take hold. While it may sound far out, there’s evidence to back it up. Sunlight has been shown to inhibit the body’s production of certain antibodies, among them T-cells that bolster the immune system. Previous research has also hinted at a connection between the sun’s rays and herpes transmission.

So when you hit the beach this summer, remember to pack the sunscreen, turn off your cell phone and practice safe sex.

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