Performers: Can Condoms Cause Cancer ?

As a former employment and workers’ compensation attorney I often had to research the potential side-effects of different chemicals my clients were exposed to while “on-the-job.” Since Cal-OSHA, the City of Los Angeles and now possibly the County of Los Angeles all want to make condoms mandatory for the industry one of the first questions that everyone should be asking is – Are condoms safe ?

I realize that seems like a strange question to ask since the motivating idea behind the use of condoms is to make the industry more safe from the spread of different STDs. However, the question needs to be asked since condoms may in fact do more harm than good.

I experienced this same issue several years ago, as an attorney for employers in California, when there was a push to require back braces for those that worked in warehouses. The common belief was that a back brace worn by an employee would give that employee more back support and thus cut down the rate and severity of low back injuries in the state’s workforce. It seemed like a reasonable position. Until studies were performed that showed that wearing a back brace actually INCREASED the number of back injuries since those wearing them believed it provided them with some sort of magically lifting powers. By wearing a back brace they actually tried to lift heavier items they would not have tried to lift if they did not wear a back brace. And thus, the number of low back injuries actually increase because of their use.

Therefore I wondered if there were studies about condoms as to the same issue. Does wearing a condom provide a sense of superior safety which may result in actual riskier behavior. So I did research, as attorneys often do.

What I found is much more concerning and confusing. Condoms contain a substance that in known to cause cancer. And not only does it contain a substance known to cause cancer, that substance, known as Nitrosamines, is actually a REGULATED chemical under California Occupational Safety & Health Regulations ( Please see ). According to the United States Department of Labor, exposure (to Nitrosamines) by all routes should be carefully controlled to levels as low as possible (Please see ).

And here is what US OSHA states Nitrosamines can do to the human body;

Potential Symptoms: Irritation of eyes, skin, respiratory tract; nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps; headache; sore throat, cough; weakness; fever; enlarged liver, jaundice; decreased liver, kidney, and pulmonary function; low platelet count; [potential occupational carcinogen]

Health Effects: Cancer (HE1); Liver cirrhosis (HE3); Suspect teratogen (HE5)

Affected Organs: Liver, kidneys, lungs

A German study found that; ( Please see,,1220847,00.html )

The condoms, which were kept in a solution with artificial sweat, exuded huge amounts of cancer-causing N-Nitrosamine from its rubber coating. Researchers measured amounts of N-Nitrosamine, that were way above the prescribed limits for other rubber products such as baby pacifiers.

“N-Nitrosamine is one of the most carcinogenic substances,” the study’s authors said. “There is a pressing need for manufacturers to tackle this problem.”

Then I thought to myself this cannot be true. Where are all the penis & cervical cancer cases ? Surely the world would have heard reports of an increase in these types of cancers if in fact the chemicals in condoms caused cancer. So I did more research, as attorneys often do. And then I found the actual study performed by the German researchers. It is published on the National Institute of Health Website (Please see ).

Here is a excerpt from the study; (I highlighted the important parts relevant to this discussion)

Previously, endogenous nitrosamine formation in the vagina has been suggested as a cause of cervical cancer. It was speculated that exogenous N-nitrosamines and N-nitrosatable compounds from condoms may also lead to genital cancer. Therefore, we reviewed the literature and calculated the risk for the induction of tumors by nitrosamines from condoms. In vitro Biaudet et al. (1997) found up to 88 ng nitrosatable compounds migrating from condoms to cervical mucous within 24 hrs. During sexual intercourse about 0.6 ng may migrate in the female genital mucous membranes because of the short contact to the condom, e.g. 10 min. Comparable amounts of nitrosamines may also migrate in the penile skin. Estimating 1500 contacts to condoms during lifetime (50 condoms/year for 30 years) this may result in the adsorption of up to 0.9 microgram nitrosamines in total.

This study was based on the use of condoms for personal sexual activity NOT commercial sexual activity. The researchers used 10 minutes for an exposure period having sex once a week for 30 years. Based on that they concluded that condoms did not present a risk of increased cancer rates. I tried to find an example of another study where condom use was much greater but I could not find one (Perhaps if someone can find a research paper as to the use of condoms for sex-workers and increased cancer rates from exposure to Nitrosamines that would be most beneficial).

Taking their research a step farther and applying it to the industry sex practices, it is possible for a male performer will have to use a condom for up to 6 hours a day (2 scenes)  for up to 5 days a week. This is 17,900% increase in exposure over how much time the typical man would wear a condom in his lifetime according to the German’s study. And that is only in one week of exposure to the male performer. Compound that number by years of performing and now there is a substantial increased risk of developing cancer, even using this study’s parameters.

So here we have Cal-OSHA demanding that the industry use condoms to comply with blood-borne pathogen laws when their own regulations indicate that Nitrosamines cause cancer and there has been NO studies performed that show that long term industrial exposure to the Nitrosamines in condoms is safe.

Why hasn’t this issue been raised in the debate as to whether condom use should be mandatory? Why are condoms being forced on the industry before any controlled studies have been completed as to high exposure and long term effects of Nitrosamines are more closely examined ?

Oh yes, because condoms are being pushed by the AIDs Healthcare Foundation and the health and safety of performers would only get in the way of their safer sex message for the general public, who will never develop cancer from the use of a condom.



2 thoughts on “Performers: Can Condoms Cause Cancer ?

  1. I don’t know why this would surprise anyone. Condoms cause a lot of women to become vaginally irritated and sore and some women have a pretty common allergic reaction to latex. I know there is polypropylene and other ingredients for condoms but the vaginal tissues absorb anything and everything as they are a mucous lining. So things just go directly into the blood stream and there is a steady supply of veins and arteries in a woman’s vagina. It only stands to reason that some women may have a sensitivity to these cancer causing agents and develop cervical cancer and other types of cancer involving the reproductive tract. I guess you have to weigh the pro’s and con’s of getting a really nasty STD or dying later on from vaginal/cervical cancer.


  2. Usually I don’t read post on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do it! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thank you, quite nice post.


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