Older gay men who regularly use poppers have an increased risk of some cancers; notably those caused by viruses in men who have sex with men.
A study by the journal AIDS, which tracked 3,223 men over a period of almost 20 years, showed a link between heavy use of poppers and these cancers in HIV-negative men aged 50-70.
Poppers (chemically known as amyl nitrate) are popularly used among some gay men during sex, and are available over the counter.
After removing other factors like number of sexual partners and other demographics, it was found that older HIV-negative men are three times more likely to develop certain kinds of cancer, such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma and anal and oropharyngeal cancer (HPV).
HIV-positive poppers users in the same age bracket did not show the same results. The study explains that this is likely “due to the much greater impact of HIV-related immunodeficiency on cancer risk.”
Interestingly, the study found that there was “no increase in cancer risk among men with a larger number of sexual partners or men with a higher frequency of sexually transmitted infections, both of which might lead to greater exposure to viral infections such as human papillomavirus (HPV).