DOUCHING could double the risk of developing ovarian cancer – a disease which has been dubbed the ‘silent killer’ and a surprising number of women have done it.
Scientists in the US, have revealed vaginal washing – which is practised by some women who argue it makes them feel cleaner – could be dangerous.
Douching is the practice of squirting water, or fluids into the vagina. Most doctors would recommend against the practice because it changes the natural balance of healthy bacteria and can make it easier to pick up infections.
A poll by Express.co.uk found 29 per cent of the 232 people who were asked admitted to reguarly douching, while 57 per cent said they had never done it.
Just 14 per cent admitted to having done it onece or twice.
Experts say the vagina is self-cleaning.
Previous studies have linked douching to cervical cancer, reduced fertility, yeast infections, pelvic inflammatory disease – an infection of the uterus – and ectopic pregnancies.
The study, by the National Institute of Environmental Sciences is the first to link the ovarian cancer to the procedure – which is reportedly practised by millions of women.
Joelle Brown, an epidemiology professor at the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the study, said link between douching and ovarian cancer took her by surprise.
“While most doctors and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists strongly recommend that women do not douche, many women continue to douche because they falsely perceive douching to have positive health benefits, such as increased cleanliness.”
She said women need to be told not to douche.
Ovarian cancer is known as the silent killer because women often experience no symptoms until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage.
Cancer Research UK said each year around 7,300 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and long-term survival remains just 35 per cent.
An estimated 20,000 American women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and about 14,500 die from it annually, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The new analysis in the journal Epidemiology followed more than 41,000 women throughout the US. and Puerto Rico since 2003.
Participants were 35 to 74 years old, and each had a sister who had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
The participants were free of breast and ovarian cancer when they enrolled in the study.
By July 2014, researchers counted 154 cases of ovarian cancer among participants.
The study found women who reported douching during the year before entering the study nearly doubled their risk of ovarian cancer.
The link between douching and ovarian cancer was even stronger when the authors looked only at women who didn’t have breast-cancer genes in their family.
The breakthrough comes after it was revealed gynaecological cancer is the world’s fourth biggest cancer killer.