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Carcinogens in Condoms?

Carcinogens in Condoms?

4 minute read

The most recent condom rumor to leave the mill is that condoms can cause cancer. Since this is news to us, we decided to do a little research and were delighted to find that this condom myth has not just been busted, but has been beaten into the ground like the dead horse it is.

The Rumor

In 2005, a German study found that many condoms contain a carcinogen, N-Nitrosamine, which could be released when exposed to a chemical mimicking the effects of human sweat. The worry was that the nitrosamines would then be absorbed into the flesh during coitus, leading to a potentially toxic build up.

Nitrosamines are present in condoms because it helps the latex keep its elasticity. It can be found in tons of things that feature rubber, including baby bottle nipples, balloons, and latex gloves. The researchers found N-Nitrosamine in 29 of 32 condoms they tested.

But despite being described as one of the most dangerous carcinogens out there, the actual risks of the N-Nitrosamine in condoms are actually pretty non-existent.


Researchers immediately decided to test the effects of nitrosamines to see how much would be absorbed and what would happen if it was an issue. The first thing they had to do was measure how much was being released by the condoms.

The first issue that they ran into was that at the time, there were no prescribed limits for how much N-Nitrosamine could be found in intimate products. They had to measure this effect on hamsters to decide what level would be toxic for humans.

Fortunately, it wasn't just the amounts that were leached out of the condoms that were negligible, but the amounts absorbed by the flesh were even smaller. In fact, they were found to be extremely negligible. The researchers estimated that a person would use approximately 1,500 condoms during their lifetime, and the amount of nitrosamines transferred from that number of condoms would need to be a million times higher to even have a possibility of becoming toxic over a lifetime. So no, the nitrosamines in condoms will not give you cancer.

The only people really at risk for cancer from nitrosamines in condoms would be those who work in condom factories. For this reason, the researchers contacted those brands who were found to have the highest amount of nitrosamines and were told that they were already taking strides to eliminate the carcinogen in their products in case there was an issue. There hasn't been an update on the matter, but some brands may have become completely nitrosamine-free in the ten years since the study was published.

The Real Danger

It's rumors like this that really perplex us here at Condom Depot. Spreading information like this without proper context can be very dangerous. If you merely read the headline, "Do Condoms Cause Cancer?" in passing, would it come to mind when you were deciding which method to use to protect yourself from unwanted pregnancy and STDs? Or would it lead to you making a potentially very dangerous decision for your health?

In fact, the researchers from the study strongly recommended continuing to use condoms in spite of their research. The risks of not wearing one are far too great.

An original hypothesis for this study surmised that condoms were responsible for recent high rates of cervical cancer. The researchers thought that this was due to the nitrosamines in condoms, but as the abstract for the study points out, developing countries with notoriously low condom usage rates often have very high rates of cervical cancer. We now know that certain types of HPV can lead to cervical cancer-- and HPV is easier to spread when you're not wearing a condom.

A Conflict of Interest

As a condom distributor, we realize and freely admit that we have a certain stake in this information. If you are curious for more information from an unbiased source, please feel free to read the actual study, or take a look at a breakdown of the data by the Reproductive Health Technologies Project.

As a final note, those condoms which were found to have no traces of N-Nitrosamine in the above document are also some of our more popular condoms:

Astute readers may notice that quite a few of the condoms above are non-latex. If the above evidence isn't enough to persuade you that the nitrosamine exposure in condoms is not harmful, consider switching to a latex-free lifestyle.

Sources: [Bedsider, International Journal for Hygiene and Environmental Health, Pride Source]

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