Oral Sex Suspected as Cause of Rising Cases of Throat Cancer

Recent statistics from the Houston M. D. Anderson Cancer Center show that although the rates of head and neck cancer have dropped in recent years, throat cancer rates in the United States have not dropped. In fact, cases of throat cancer could be on the rise.

They suggest that the rise in oropharyngeal cancers, or cancer of the tonsil and base of tongue, could be linked to oral sex and the sexually transmitted infection human papilloma virus (HPV).

HPV is a virus that causes genital warts and most cases of cervical cancers. It is only recent that HPV transmission through oral sex is identified as a potential cause of throat cancer.

According to the researchers, the findings serve to highlight the importance of research aimed at establishing if the newly-available HPV vaccine is effective in males, especially in preventing throat cancer. The vaccine has been shown to be almost 100% effective for preventing cervical infection.

Oropharyngeal cancer is rare and account for just 10,000 of the 45,000 head and neck malignancies diagnosed each year in the United States. However, tongue cancer rates among young adults have increased and the researchers believe this is due to HPV infection being spread through oral sex.

The researchers say the current policy in the US of vaccinating only females against HPV could result in a missed opportunity to prevent throat cancers At present, the HPV vaccine is offered to males in Australia, Mexico, and some other countries. The American Cancer Society says there is, as yet, no clinical proof that it works to prevent HPV in men.

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