The new sexual politics of cancer: Oncoviruses, disease prevention, and sexual health promotion oa

Laura Mamo*, Steven Epstein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


In recent decades, scientists have established a causal link between a number of viruses and a variety of cancers accounting for an estimated 12 to 20 per cent of all cancer cases worldwide. When including all cancers resulting from weakened immune systems due to HIV/AIDS, the number of cancer cases directly or indirectly attributable to viruses rises further. In this article, we examine six cases of virus-cancer connections, selecting those viruses that are also sexually transmitted. These include the well-known case of human papillomavirus (HPV) as well as Hepatitis B and C, the Epstein-Barr Virus, HTLV-1, and KSHV/HHV-8. We examine these viral cancer connections as entanglements among sex, science and biomedicine, specifically exploring the varied places, processes and attributions that infuse this health domain with sexual meanings or banish these from view. We argue that such processes and attributions appear in the shadow cast by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. While virus-cancer links potentially direct researchers both 'inward' toward the biomolecular and 'outward' toward the social and cultural, our analysis reveals a predominant shift inward in ways that both reinforce and occlude attempts to banish sexual meanings from view.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)367-391
Number of pages25
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017


  • Sexual politics
  • biomedicine
  • cancer
  • cancer prevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy


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