Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Throat cancer: Oral sex a bigger threat than tobacco

By Laura Huamán 

The human papilloma virus seems to now be more highly associated with throat cancer in people under 50 years of age than tobacco use.

Nowadays, younger men are having cancer in the mouth and oropharynx, conditions that used to be mainly diagnosed in older men who drank and smoked. In the U.S. the incidence of oral cancers linked to HPV have doubled in the last 20 years. Similarly, in Sweden, the incidence of tonsil cancers rose to 90 percent in the 2000s from 25% in the 70s. HPV 16, the strain that is linked to oral cancer, seems to increase the risk of getting oropharynx cancer by a 14-fold.
Professor Maura Gillison of Ohio State University said that HPV was linked to oral cancers more frequently than tobacco. Still, she added, “What is most strongly linked to oral HPV infection is the number of sexual partners someone has had in their lifetimes, in particular the number of individuals on whom they have performed oral sex. The higher the number of partners that you’ve had, the greater the odds that you’d have an oral infection.”

The article also cited a study from Johns Hopkins University, published last year, which found that HPV posed a greater risk in contracting cancer than smoking or alcohol.

1 comment:

  1. NOOO! I just wrote an entire blog post about this :)! The article I read was a simplified NPR one, but I am curious as to the 14-fold increase in risk of oropharynx cancer and how significant that actual is. For instance, if the normal risk of oropharynx cancer is .001%, a 14-fold increase doesn't seem too big of deal. However, if the normal risk of oropharnyx cancer is 1%, a 14-fold increase is huge!

    Anyhoo, I'll go find something else to blog about.......:)