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An estimated 7% of Population Carry Oral HPV; Oral Cancer Incidence to Rise Sharply

Posted Jan 30 2012 12:00am

In a previous post, I raised the issue of the relationship between oral sex, HPV, and oral cancer (see: HPV Now Shown to Cause Oral Cancer in Men ). Here are two quotes from it:

The HPV virus now causes as many cancers of the upper throat as tobacco and alcohol, probably due both to an increase in oral sex and the decline in smoking.

Of the 300 study participants [in a recently published study], those infected with HPV were also 32 times more likely to develop [cancer of the tonsils or at the base of the tongue] than those who did not have the virus. These findings dwarf the increased risk of developing this so-called oropharyngeal cancer associated with the two major risk factors: smoking (3 times greater) or drinking (2.5 times greater). HPV infection drives cancerous growth, as it is widely understood to do in the cervix. But unlike cervical cancer, this type of oral cancer is more prevalent in men.

Now comes more information about the incidence of oral HPV in the U.S. population (see: 7% of adults, teens carry HPV in mouths ):

An estimated 7 percent of American teens and adults carry the human papilloma virus in their mouths, an infection that puts them at heightened risk of developing cancer of the mouth and throat, researchers said Thursday. Their study , the first to assess the prevalence of oral HPV infection in the U.S. population, may help health experts understand why rates of oropharyngeal cancer - a type of head and neck cancer - have skyrocketed in recent years, increasing 225 percent between 1988 and 2004. The findings also indicate that the virus is not likely to spread through kissing or casual contact and that most cases of oral HPV can be traced to oral sex....  If present trends continue, HPV will cause more cases of oral cancers than cervical cancer by 2020, according to the ....study. HPV infection is common - an estimated 80 percent of Americans have contracted the virus....It usually produces no symptoms and is typically cleared from the body through natural processes. But persistent infections can cause cancer. Vaccines are now available for children and young adults to prevent cervical and anal cancers caused by the most troublesome HPV strains.

Here's a very current reference about the relationship between oral HPV infection and oral cancer (see: Human Papillomavirus and Rising Oropharyngeal Cancer Incidence in the United States ). The conclusion of this article is clear:

Increases in the population-level incidence and survival of oropharyngeal cancers in the United States since 1984 are caused by HPV infection.

It was as a matter of some debate when the HPV vaccine came to market whether both males and females needs to be vaccinated. Now and with the threat of oral cancer associated with HPV infection, there is a need for additional discussion and research about the use of the vaccine to prevent oropharangeal cancer, particularly in males. However, it seems that there is controversy, not unexpectedly, about this topic (see: Oral Sex, Throat Cancer And HPV Vaccines ). This note raises the question of whether this emerging research on HPV and oral cancer may be funded by pharmaceutical companies anxious to stimulate the sales of HPV vaccines. There is also the need for clinical trials to determine whether the vaccines prevent oral cancers.

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