Oral sex linked to cancer risk

US scientists said Sunday there is strong evidence linking oral sex to cancer, and urged more study of how human papillomaviruses may be to blame for a rise in oral cancer among white men.

In the United States, oral cancer due to HPV infection is now more common than oral cancer from tobacco use, which remains the leading cause of such cancers in the rest of the world.

Researchers have found a 225-percent increase in oral cancer cases in the United States from 1974 to 2007, mainly among white men, said Maura Gillison of Ohio State University.

"When you compare people who have an oral infection or not... the single greatest factor is the number of partners on whom the person has performed oral sex," said Gillison, who has been researching HPV and cancer for 15 years.

"When the number of partners increases, the risk increases," she told reporters at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Washington.

Previous studies have suggested that people who have performed oral sex on six or more partners over a lifetime face an eight-fold higher risk of acquiring HPV-related head or neck cancer than those with fewer than six partners, she said.

But even though the link between HPV and cervical cancer has been well known for many years, and vaccines now exist to provide some protection, much study remains to be done to confirm observational links and establish causes, Gillison said.

"The cervical cancer field is 20 years ahead," she said.

"We can't demonstrate definitively that certain behaviors are associated with risk of acquiring an infection," she said.

"The rise in oral cancer in the US is predominantly among young white males and we do not know the answer as to why."

Researcher Diane Harper of the University of Missouri said such studies will take time, but the oral cancer field may move more quickly by using technology already developed for detecting HPV in cervical cancer patients.

"One of the scientific technologies that have evolved over time is the way that we detect HPV," said Harper.

"I think that the head and neck cancer area will benefit from that because we have gone through all kinds of different laboratory techniques to make sure we are actually finding what we think is HPV and getting type-specific information to go with that."

There as many as 150 different types of human papillomaviruses, and about 40 of those can be sexually transmitted, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Some may cause genital warts, while other more high-risk varieties can cause oral, anal, vaginal and penile cancers.

Sexually transmitted HPV infections are common and often asymptomatic, and untreated cases in women are the main cause of cervical cancer.

Half of all sexually active Americans will get HPV at some point in their lives, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated.

Two vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, were approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2006 for HPV types that cause cervical cancer and genital warts.

However, only 40 percent of US girls have received one dose and just 17 percent have received all three doses in the regimen, said researchers.

A study published earlier this month in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the HPV vaccine could prevent 90 percent of genital warts in men, and the vaccine has also been approved against anal cancer in men and women.

Harper said she was not recommending the general population get the HPV vaccine because research has not yet established its effectiveness past five to eight years for cervical cancer.

"We know from all of the very good modeling studies that have been done throughout the world that if the vaccine does not last for a minimum of 15 years, cervical cancer will not be prevented, it will only be postponed," she said.

For now, Harper and fellow presenter Bonnie Halpern-Felsher of the University of California San Francisco recommended that patients discuss HPV with their doctors.

"If you talk to health care providers and certainly parents and other educators, they are not talking to teens about oral sex, period," said Halpern-Felsher, who has studied teenagers' attitudes and sexual behaviors.

"Teens really have no idea that oral sex is related to any outcome like STIs (sexually transmitted infections), HPV, chlamydia, and so on."

(c) 2011 AFP

Citation: Oral sex linked to cancer risk (2011, February 20) retrieved 17 October 2019 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-02-oral-sex-linked-cancer.html
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User comments

Feb 20, 2011
My New Year's Resolution for 2012 will be to stop licking.

Feb 20, 2011
I have always thought of it as a taste of things to come.

Feb 20, 2011
"Sorry babe, I can't you know, cancer."

Feb 20, 2011
A little something to remember you by.

What? Women sleeps around too? I'm shocked.

You got 6 partner she got 6 partner, and each of THEM got 6 partner:

6 * 6 = 36 (for her)

but then you was with 6 womens so:

6* 36 = 216 (for you)

All together, they've been tried by 180 others who's bugs you picked up along the way.

You just slept with half the block.

The odds of you catching something by then are basicly guaranteed, not that anyone should be playing the odds.

Feb 20, 2011
"Gee, honey, I'd love to, but I've quit smoking and all. I'm trying to live a healthier life here."

Feb 20, 2011
Does oral sex prevent tooth decay?

Feb 20, 2011
yes it is recommended by five out of six dentists

Feb 20, 2011
This same article is spread all over the web word for word. It's nothing but big pharma propaganda to get young girls vaccinated with Gardasil and/or Cervarix. Learn about the horrible truth at truthaboutgardasil org/

Feb 21, 2011
Alternatives to traditional intercourse are all forms of birth control, which is why they are now legal and encouraged in the west. Back when colonies and armies needed filling up quickly they were all serious crimes, and society vilified practitioners as they still do in Islamic nations which are still purposefully growing and exporting populations. More evidence that humans are a Domesticated species.

Feb 23, 2011
The article does not mention whether the preliminary evidence applies to me who perform oral sex on women only or whether men who perform oral sex on other men are also at risk.

Feb 24, 2011
I don't get it, why only men get cancer from oral sex? We know that men do transmit HPV then it makes sense just as many women to suffer from the same oral infections (if not more, considering the difference in the contact surface in man to woman and woman to man oral sex). So this article sounds more like "use (thus buy) the vaccine" than anything else.
And although I know how dangerous HPV is, I think it makes more sense to first find something that cures it and then to make a vaccine and not the other way around.

Feb 25, 2011
The medical literature i.e. research/studies answers many of the objections raised here. The virus which causes cervical cancer is transferred to the mouth and throat through oral sex. The identification of HPV as the viral agent responsible for the increase of cases of oral CANCER is a recent discovery. We have not yet figured out how to cure any virus. If we had delayed developing vaccines until we had cures half of the people reading this would have died before age 10. The moral conviction (that my little girl will never sleep around) won't protect her when she marries a nice boy who had ONE sexual encounter with an infected person. What if she is raped by an infected man? Viruses are everywhere, and HPV is a virus which causes cancer. Protect yourself through 1) safe sexual practices 2) vaccination when available. Cancer is agonizing and it's ugly.

Feb 26, 2011
Eskweh, are you crazy?! You don't have to get raped to get HPV, you merely have to have sex. EVERYONE has it. There are so many strains, only few of them are known to cause cancer for now. The fact that someone doesn't have cancer or thwarts doesn't mean that s/he is not infected.
I do have HPV and I had treatment for it. It's a nasty disease, but there are nastier. So stop talking about your little girl like it's the worst thing that could happen to her.
And for most women, it's dangerous when it's not treated. So if you want to avoid problems, you need to go screen yourself and to do what you have to do if you have it. Safe sex?! So what happens if you keep yourself very "safe" and your hubby give it to you?!
Sorry I can't join the joy around the vaccine but for me, there are too big gaps in our knowledge of the virus for now. If I had daughter I would not vaccinate her (neither myself). Not until I'm convinced the virus is understood well enough.

Feb 28, 2011
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