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5 June 2008
Estrogen Lotion Toughens Penis, Helps Prevent HIV
by George Atkinson

University of Melbourne (Australia) researchers are claiming a world first for a study that shows how topical estrogen rubbed into the penis can help prevent HIV infection by blocking entry of the virus. Their study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, reveals that estrogen increases the thickness of the natural keratin layer on the skin of the penis, which, according to related circumcision studies, could help prevent HIV infection.

Dr Andrew Pask from the University of Melbourne explained that the epithelium area of the human penis is richly supplied with estrogen receptors, suggesting it should respond readily to topical estrogen. To test his hypothesis, he analyzed foreskin tissue samples and found that estrogen could induce a thickening of the keratin layer of the foreskin epidermis in the same way as it acts in the vagina.

To confirm its effect, Pask experimented with topical estrogen applied to the human foreskin over a two week period. He found that it resulted in a rapid and substantial increase in keratin thickness on the penis. "Keratin on our skin acts a barrier to viral infection. We have found a new avenue to possibly prevent HIV infection of the penis," he said.

Previous studies investigating the preventative effect of circumcision on HIV transmission found that the skin on the penis of circumcised men was thicker and tougher than the penile skin of uncircumcised men. This led some researchers to advocate mass circumcision for at-risk populations of men as a way of combating the spread of HIV.

The idea of mass circumcision as a HIV prophylactic is still being hotly debated, but these new findings may offer an alternative strategy, where commonly available estrogen crèmes could be used by uncircumcised men to "toughen up" their penises against viral infection. "In countries where circumcision is not religiously or culturally accepted, estrogen treatments to the penis could be very effective in reducing the spread of the disease," suggested Pask.

Foreskin Appears To Harbor HIV
HIV And Circumcision
Mass Circumcisions In Africa "Could Prevent Millions Of AIDS Deaths"
Experts Say Circumcision Should Be Promoted As Part Of AIDS Prevention
Uncircumcised Men Have Greater HIV Risk

Source: The University of Melbourne

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