A study analyzing the behaviour of over 5,000 adults has found a significant link exists between the number of sexual partners a person has had and their chances of developing cancer.

In their most stark findings, researchers from Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge found that having sex with 10 or more partners over a lifetime significantly increases one’s chances of developing cancer, with women in that category almost twice as likely (91%) to develop the disease than those who have never had sex or only had one partner.

For men, they were 69% more likely to experience cancer if they had 10 or more partners, whilst having two to four partners in their lifetime meant they were 57% more likely to be diagnosed than men who had one or none.

Published in BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health journal, the study also found that women with over five sexual partners in their lifetimes were 64% more likely to suffer a chronic condition than women who had zero to one partners, but the link between higher numbers of sexual partners and long standing conditions did not exist for men.

Among the 5,722 people analyzed, all of whom were aged 50 and over, those who had more partners were younger, tended to do more vigorous exercise every week, and were more likely to smoke and drink frequently, the latter factors being contributors to the chances of developing cancer.

Nonetheless, the researchers claim a statistically significant link emerged between the “number of lifetime sexual partners and risk of a cancer diagnosis among both sexes.”

“This is an observational study, and as such, can’t establish cause. Nevertheless, the findings chime with those of previous studies, implicating sexually transmitted infections in the development of several types of cancer and hepatitis,” according to the researchers.

Although the study didn’t obtain information on the types of cancer participants suffered, the researchers do hypothesize that “…the heightened risk of cancer might be driven by those types known to be associated with [sexually transmitted infections].”

The study was unable to answer why men with high numbers of partners did not suffer similar rates of long term chronic conditions as women, with researchers admitting that “an explanation for the gender difference in long term condition risk remains ‘elusive’.”