It’s a misnomer to call HPV that the”cervical cancer” virus. It has been known for years that human papillomaviruses are correlated not just with genital warts and cervical cancer, but also with several different cancers including prostate cancer, penile cancer, and cancer of the vulva.
In recent years, however, scientists have found a strong association with oral cancer, too–specifically cancers of the mouth and throat.
Some scientists have even hypothesized that, by 2020, these cancers could also substitute cervical cancer as the most frequent cancer brought on by HPV.
HPV Infection as a Risk Factor
Although, worldwide, most mouth and throat cancers continue to be connected with tobacco usage and/or alcohol, studies have begun to show that HPV may be another major source of risk. HPV appears to be especially strongly related to cancer of the uterus, though it’s also found in biopsy samples from other sites near.
Unlike with cervical cancer, there are lots of other risk factors for cancers of the throat and mouth. These risks include alcohol and tobacco usage.
A research study published in October 2011 discovered that the incidence of HPV-related throat cancer cases had more than doubled in the U.S. in the years between 1980 and 2004. Additional the percent of oral and throat cancers that were caused by HPV grew even faster, since the amount of tobacco-related cancers diminished over the exact same 20+ year span.
Oral Sex and Oral Cancer
How does a sexually transmitted virus wind up associated with cancers situated so far away from the genitals? The answer is most likely oral sex. Several studies have demonstrated a connection between oral sex and also the presence of HPV DNA in throat and mouth samples. Other studies have demonstrated a connection between oral sex and HPV-positive throat cancers, particularly in those individuals who perform oral sex on guys.
Taken as a group, these studies are yet another chilling reminder that oral sex isn’t necessarily safer sex. Several other sexually transmitted diseases may also be spread through oral sex, such as herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis. Safer sex methods should, hence, be used for oral sex as well as anal and vaginal intercourse. This is particularly true for people with genital herpes or HIV infections since both viruses have been shown to predispose people to get HPV.
The Problem With HPV Testing
Scientists have questioned the role of different tests for HPV in predicting cancers at different sites. HPV isn’t a simple virus to test for. Just locating HPV DNA in samples in the mouth swab does not necessarily indicate that people will develop cancer.
Conversely, many people having an HPV-positive throat cancer test negative not only for HPV DNA from the cells of the mouths but also for anti-HPV antibodies in their blood. Generally, it is therefore extremely hard to articulate the meaning of a positive, or negative, HPV test.
A Word From Verywell
Listed below are just four facts
- HPV, and specifically HPV 16, appears to play a part in the development of a significant amount of cancers of the throat and mouth.
- Oral sex increases your chance of acquiring an HPV infection in your mouth or throat.
- Considering that the vast majority of HPV-associated throat cancers seem to be caused by HPV 16, it’s possible that the HPV vaccine might be helpful for prevention.
- Although study results are combined, it appears possible that smoking and alcohol use might interact with HPV infection to increase a individual’s risk of cancer.