Can you contract an STI from a toilet seat?

Q: Can you contract an STI from a toilet seat?

A: Well… it depends on what you’re doing on the toilet seat.  Sorry – couldn’t resist. 

Assuming that you’re using the toilet for its intended purpose, it’s extremely unlikely that you could catch an STI from a toilet seat.  The most common organisms responsible for sexually transmitted infections cannot survive long outside the human body.  Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Herpes, Trichomonas, HPV and HIV all require direct skin-to-skin or body fluid contact for transmission.  

If an infected individual did happen to leave semen, vaginal secretions, blood and/or saliva on a toilet seat, the organisms would then have to be present in sufficient numbers to cause infection – again, very unlikely.  But even if you did sit on the porcelain throne from Hell and even if there were enough organisms left on the seat, you would also have to have some type of open wound on your backside for them to infect you since it is practically impossible for them to penetrate intact skin.  

One theoretical exception might be pubic lice or “crabs.” These critters can live outside the body for up to 24 hours on sheets, clothes, towels, etc.  But they really prefer to snuggle up in warm places – and their feet are not designed to walk on smooth hard surfaces – so it is highly unlikely that they would leave the cozy environment of someone’s bits and pieces for the chilly skating rink of a toilet seat.

For more information about STD prevention, look here.  And please, look before you sit!

Angie Walker, Med IV (OSU COM)

John A. Vaughn, MD (OSU SHS)

Pale is Hot – Cancer’s Not!

see... pale is hot!

In news you can use, the World Health Organization announced that tanning beds definitely cause cancer. Until now, discussions about the cancer causing effects of ultraviolet radiation (either from the sun or from tanning beds) always involved wishy-washy modifiers like probably.   No more! Tanning beds have now officially joined the ranks of other goodies like asbestos, tobacco, coal tar, mustard gas, and (for all you chemistry majors out there) the ever popular N,N-Bis(2-chloroethyl)-2-naphthylamine.

The incidence of melanoma – the worst kind of skin cancer – from ultraviolet light exposure has increased dramatically over the last three decades, particularly in young women.  We aren’t talking about a few isolated cases here, either. According to the American Cancer Society, there were 62,000 new cases diagnosed in the United States in the last year alone, and 8,000 people died from it!  Researchers believe that excessive exposure to UV radiation before the age of 30 is a very significant risk factor for developing melanoma.

The tanning bed industry has long maintained that their beds were safe because they mostly emit the “safe” UVA form of ultraviolet light.  Turns out that in their rush to get you (and your wallets) on their tanning beds, they might have been a little… overly optimistic.  UVA, UVB, and UVC all cause cancer, no matter where it comes from.

The moral of this story, young Buckeyes, is that the healthy glow of a tan is not healthy at all.  This summer, make like an extra from the set of Twilight and go for pale!  Pale is best – put your sunscreen to the test!

Vicki Rentel, MD (Student Health Services)