A solitary cow, peacefully grazing away. A dazzling sight for any "animal lover".

A solitary cow, peacefully grazing away. A dazzling sight for any "animal lover".

There’s nothing not to love about animals. Since the dawn of mankind, animals have offered humans food, clothing and company. However, some have ventured this relationship farther from its platonic grounds, and expressed their love for animals in a more… intimate manner. A recent study conducted by Brazilian researchers has found that more than 35 percent of study participants had at least one sexual experience with an animal during their lifetime, and that there’s an undeniable link between sex with animals and penile cancer.

The researchers surveyed 492 men from rural Brazil between 18 and 80, including penile cancer patients and healthy individuals, and found that 35 percent reportedly engaged in sexual relations with an animal. Of the 118 penile cancer patients, 45 percent reported having sex with animals, compared with 32 percent of healthy men. The results were part of a wider study which analyzed the various risks of penile cancer for visiting individuals in  16 urology and oncology centers in 12 Brazilian cities.

Interestingly enough, it seems once you “go animal”, you can’t get back that easily. Fifty-nine percent of the men involved in the study who had sex with animals did so for one to five years, while 21 percent continued the behavior.

A relation between penile cancer and the number of animals with which individuals came into sexual contact couldn’t be made, however group sex with animals was found to be a major factor for sexually transmitted diseases. More than 30 percent of subjects practiced group sex with animals (anything from mares, pigs, cows and even chickens), and this likely accounts for the high number of STDs among practicants.

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Sex with animals comes at a heavy cost

The study is the first to link male genital cancer with SWA, the later which has been poorly studied. It is documented that up to 10 percent of cancers in men in Asia, Africa and South America are penile, while in western countries like the US it quite rare. This begs for a direct correlation between education, hygine or social discrepancies and penile cancer, as well as to, if you will, sex with animals.

How does this kind of unorthodox practice related to penile cancer, though? Well, the top risk hazard known to cause penile cancer are micro-injuries to the penis, which occur when physical trauma is inflicted – this type of injury is quite common  post-intercourse between a human and caballus.

“We think that the intense and long-term SWA practice could produce micro-traumas in the human penile tissue,”  lead author Stênio de Cássio Zequi, a urologist in São Paulo, said. “The genital mucus membranes of animals could have different characteristics from human genitalia, and the animals’ secretions are probably different from human fluids. Perhaps animal tissues are less soft than ours, and non-human secretions would be toxic for us,” he explained.

Tobias Köhler, a urologist at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine who was not involved in the research, acknowledged the study was rigourous enough to be credible and offered more insights relating to penis micro-injury, as a results of bestiality.

“The vagina in humans has moisturizing properties, which prevent penile injury. With animals, you’re at higher risk for micro-trauma, like cuts and scratches. And then whatever pathogens are there, like bacteria and viruses, are more likely to cause a problem.”

If you’re planing on having sex with an animal, at least wear a condom

Then there’s also the case of various viruses and bacteria present in the vaginal tissue of animals, which Köhler believes to play a role in the development of penile cancer. Also, one can also related penile cancer to the lifestyles of the men who practice this kind of sexual deviance. A typical zoophile is uneducated, has poor hygiene, doesn’t use condoms and is basically willing to stick it into anything that has a hole and moves.  Still, Zequi is firm convinced that SWA remains as a significant risk factor for penile cancer in the analysis, independent of lifestyle choices.

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However, animal sex isn’t exclusively reserved for the rural and illeterate. Surprisingly enough, the opposite is true in a inverssily proportional manner in developing countries like the US, where sex with animals is predominant among the educated populace.

“SWA is not a sexual behavior limited only for poor rural populations,” Zequi said. “It is actually a growing health concern today. Just give a few clicks on the search sites on the Internet and you’ll come across numerous ‘zoo’ sites or virtual communities focused on bestiality, many of which are pornographic and sometimes with degrading images.”

Zequi believes his study is evidence enough that the link between penile cancer and sex with animals is there, as such urges clinicians to spread the word to at-risk populations. While the practice is difficult to discourage, measures can be taken to dampen the risks of developing cancer.

The study was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

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