NCBI ROFL: And the grossest study award goes to…

By ncbi rofl | February 25, 2011 7:00 pm

Assessing Male Condom Failure and Incorrect Use.

“BACKGROUND: It has not been well established whether common indices of male condom failure are valid predictors of biologically meaningful exposure during condom use. METHODS: To address this gap, the authors compared self-reported condom malfunctions (i.e., breakage and slippage) and incorrect condom practices to 2 following objective measures of failure: prostate-specific antigen (PSA) detected in vaginal swabs collected after condom use and structural integrity of used condoms. The study, conducted in 2000-2001, evaluated 635 male condoms used by 77 women attending an outpatient, reproductive-health clinic in Birmingham, AL. Women reported breakage or slippage for 7.9% of condoms; 3.5% of postcoital swabs had moderate or high levels of PSA; and laboratory testing of used condoms revealed breaks (1.1%) and leaks (2.0%). Self-reported breakage and slippage was associated with moderate/high PSA concentrations in postcoital swabs only when the malfunctions were not accompanied by reports of corrective actions to reduce exposure (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 6.9; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.8-26.2). Defects observed in postcoital laboratory testing were related to PSA detection (aOR, 8.0; 95% CI, 1.5-42.6). Incorrect practices defined on the condom label were frequent, but not all types were associated with semen exposure. Furthermore, other practices not currently label-defined were associated with semen exposure: touching the tip of the penis with his hands (aOR, 6.2; 95% CI, 2.3-17.0) or with her hands (aOR, 2.8; 95% CI, 1.1-72) before donning the condom. CONCLUSIONS: Used correctly, male condoms afforded good protection based on objective measures of failure.”

Photo: flickr/david drexler

Related content:
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Problems with condoms may be reduced for men taking ample time to apply them.
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Accidental condom inhalation.
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Those are the [condom] breaks.

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  • figleaf

    I don’t want to go all judgmental here but this is actually pretty critical public-health information. I mean, yeah, it sounds a little squicky but if you think about it it’s not even as gross as stuff the average public sanitation worker, sewage-treatment plant operator, or even (yikes!) some restaurant inspectors (yikes!!) have to put up with every day.

    But consider for a moment that on the one hand condoms are the primary contraception method for first-time and short-term relationships. Then reflect on recent findings that statistically speaking condoms are only fractionally more effective than withdrawal for as a contraceptive method. Now look at those reliability statistics and reflect that condoms are the only recommended means of protection from sexually transmitted disease.

    Consider finally that the same knee-squeezing twits who snark about condom-use research are often at greatest risk of using condoms incorrectly when, or perhaps I should say if, they ever find themselves in a situation where condoms are most frequently used. And ask yourself if this line of research, however “gross,” it’s really all that floor-rollingly funny.

    Knowing that there’s a reported 7.9% rate of condoms breaking or slipping off, and that (by rough inference) in half the cases where failure or slippage occurs there’s measurable body fluid intermixture is worth a little mockery.

    Anyway, despite my crabby response to your editorial stance I’m actually glad to have learned about this study through Discoblog. I hope it encourages further research. It’s kind of an important subject. So thanks.


  • dr. frueisata

    How wrong you are, Sir. Condoms ARE by far the most gross thing ever. They are 27.2% grosser than raw sewage when taken from reproductive-health centers. I would provide you with the citation but it would be easier to direct you to look in your pantaloons for an example of inflated and misrepresented statistics.

    Good Day!

  • showmethedata

    Can you provide a reference for the study you mention that shows that “statistically speaking condoms are only fractionally more effective than withdrawal for as a contraceptive method”?

    PS: I use condoms regularly, think they are important, yet still find this paper funny in a gross sort of way. I guess that makes me a “knee-squeezing twit”, although I’m not exactly sure how it affects my ability to use a condom properly.


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NCBI ROFL is the brainchild of two Molecular and Cell Biology graduate students at UC Berkeley and features real research articles from the PubMed database (which is housed by the National Center for Biotechnology information, aka NCBI) that they find amusing (ROFL is a commonly-used internet acronym for "rolling on the floor, laughing"). Follow us on twitter: @ncbirofl


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