Medical experts have warned women against applying tobacco powder to their genitals.
Women who indulge in the practice claim that it boosts sexual pleasure and helps their fertility. There is no scientific proof for either, physicians say.
Rather, experts warn, tobacco powder has the potential to cause cancer, difficulties during delivery, and it is capable of affecting the normal flow of menstruation.
A researcher and Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Yaba, Lagos, Dr. Gregory Ohihoin, said tobacco has a lot of side effects and its use should be discouraged among women.
“It is not healthy for women to apply tobacco powder to the genitals. Tobacco is associated with cancer in many parts of the body, so, it’s not safe.
“Tobacco has a lot of side effects and it is not healthy for women to add it to their genitals; it should be discouraged.
“Tobacco is associated with gut cancer and over 75 percent of the cancers of the body and that is why tobacco is highly discouraged,” Ohihoin said.
According to him, tobacco is dangerous for human consumption or use, whether it is in the form of cigarettes, snuff, or powder.
“There is nothing good in tobacco; the evidence is well-documented. Some people have the tendency to be addicted to it and in whatever form you make it, it’s a very dangerous substance and it is associated with cancer in many different parts of the body.
“It doesn’t improve fertility, there is no good thing associated with tobacco.
“Tobacco is a dangerous substance and is carcinogenic and its use must be discouraged,” Ohihoin reiterated.
Also, a senior resident doctor at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, Dr. Azeez Ojekunle, added that the practice has no effect on libido or fertility but can cause scarring.
“It’s known that many women apply some substances into their genitals for various purposes.
“Some are culturally motivated. However, all these have an impact not only on the genitalia but also on the reproductive parts, generally.
“It’s more of the negative side effects than the positive effects. One of the known effects is that it can increase the risk of developing cancer of the reproductive parts, especially ovarian cancer,” Ojekunle warned.
He said several studies and researches have shown that the use of talcum powder or tobacco powder can increase the risk of ovarian cancer, especially in those that have a family history or genetic predisposition.
“Sometimes, some women use corrosive substances in an attempt to tighten the genitals. This can result in scar formation, which can eventually disturb the normal architecture of the genitalia with the subsequent affectation of normal menstrual flow.
“It may also result in difficult sexual intercourse, sometimes it can affect them during child delivery. So, there are myriads of complications that could arise from it.
“A good genital hygiene is normal cleaning with lukewarm water and not even too frequently, as is being advocated.”
The gynaecologist noted that anyone involved in applying substances on their genitalia is advised to desist and discuss with a medical practitioner or see a specialist.
“When such patient comes in, we try to evaluate, ask questions. Some don’t usually disclose that they’ve ever inserted anything, but with further evaluation, we tend to find out that they’ve done it.
“Then, we evaluate them further generally, especially the genitalia, before we commence treatment.
“Overall, it’s not good for our women to indulge in the habit because it can expose them to immediate and delayed complications, to the extent that it can lead to cancer of the reproductive parts,” Ojekunle said.
A study published in the Nature journal shows that cigarette smoking is associated with an altered vaginal tract metabolomic profile.
The research involved 40 women who self-collected mid-vaginal swabs during a single visit at the Centre for Health Behaviour Research at the University of Maryland School of Public Health.
However, four women were excluded from this analysis due to poor DNA quality affecting the normalisation of the vaginal metabolome dataset (final sample size for analysis was 36 (17 smokers and 19 non-smokers).
The researchers, led by T. M. Nelson, noted that it is well-documented that a vaginal microbiota dominated by Lactobacillus spp. is associated with reduced risk for urogenital infections, including sexually transmitted infections and urinary tract infections.
In the study, the researchers determined that overall smoking did not affect the vaginal metabolome after controlling for community state types, but several key metabolites were elevated in smokers.
“Among women who were smokers and depauperate for Lactobacillus spp. (classified as CST-IV), we observed that they had significantly more perturbed metabolic profile than other CSTs when compared to their non-smoking counterparts.
“Biogenic amines were elevated in smokers and these metabolites have known roles in anaerobic bacterial proliferation, immune- and stress-resistance with a significant link to the development of bacterial vaginosis, and possibly other reproductive tract infections.
“Women who smoke may have increased susceptibility to reproductive tract infections due to the observed increase in concentrations of Biosynthesis of biogenic amines and the finding was even more pronounced among women who had low levels of Lactobacillus spp,” the researchers said.
They added that the metabolite profile of the vagina was strongly influenced by the resident microbiota as well as cigarette smoking in epidemiologic analyses that controlled for possible confounders.
“Detection of nicotine and its breakdown products in the vagina may serve as molecular biomarkers of smoking.
“Our results suggest that smoking is associated with several important metabolites present in the vagina that may have implications for women’s health. This study serves as a pilot for the development of future studies of the mechanisms linking smoking to poor gynecologic and reproductive health outcomes,” they submitted.