Oral sex linked to increased mouth cancers in men
Increased levels of cancer in the tongue, mouth and throat amongst young men has been blamed on an explosion in oral sex.
The cases of oral cancer caused by the HPV virus, which can also cause cervical cancer, has increased steeply over the last 30 years. The virus can be transmitted during oral sex and according to US research this is the reason for the rise.
A study in The New England Journal of Medicine of nearly 46,000 cases of oral cancers found that people with six or more oral sex partners were three times as likely to develop the cancer as people who never had oral sex.
The rise was largest among young white males suggesting this group is more likely to have oral sex at a younger age now than it was 20 years ago.
Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK said: 'What we do know is that the prevalence of HPV is high, particularly among young people and this shouldn't be a surprise given that, since the sexual revolution, people have been having more sexual partners.'
Longtime HPV researcher Maura L. Gillison, MD, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, has said the findings should not be seen as cause for undue alarm. 'This is a very uncommon cancer, so a person's individual risk is pretty small,' she told WebMD.
There are over 100 types of HPV. Those that affect the skin causing warts and verrucas can be passed on by skin contact with an affected person. Those that affect the mouth and throat can be passed on through kissing. Genital HPV is usually spread through intimate, skin to skin, contact during sex.
The findings are sure to add to the controversy about whether or not boys should be vaccinated against the HPV virus as girls are. However, it should be stressed that genital HPV transmission can be prevented right now by using a condom.
Page created on September 1st, 2008
Page updated on September 7th, 2010