Mouth and throat cancer, called oropharynx cancer, used to be a disease seen most commonly in elderly persons. Tobacco smoking and alcohol use were known to be the leading causes of oropharyngeal cancer. Today, oral sex is listed as the leading cause of cancer of the mouth and throat.
New research, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, demonstrates that human papillomavirus, HPV, is the leading cause of cancer of the oropharnyx in the U.S. The number of people diagnosed with HPV-related oral cancers in the U.S. tripled from 1998 to 2004.
Currently, as NPR reports, almost 10,000 new cases of oral and throat cancer are diagnosed each year, with a 28 percent increase in incidence since 1988. Interestingly, the majority of those who are being diagnosed with the HPV-related oropharyngeal cancers are men. This leads researchers to wonder if the vaccine against HPV that is recommended for teenage girls may be affording that gender with protection against oropharyngeal cancer, as well as the currently known protection against cervical cancer.
Researchers have noted a marked drop in non-HPV-related mouth and throat cancers since the American population has begun to turn away from tobacco smoking.
The oropharyngeal cancer most commonly affects the tonsils, palate, base of the tongue and the upper throat. Whereas this type of cancer was previously seen most often in aged patients, it is now more common at younger ages, including baby boomers and their juniors, reports Bloomberg News.
HPV is the most commonly transmitted sexual disease, but as Dr. Gregory Masters, an oncologist at the Helen Graham Cancer Center in Delaware reminds us, research is not yet clear that oral sex is the main or only transmission factor in this cancer,
Dr. Maura Gillison, author of the research published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology states that persons who have had six or more partners on whom they’ve practiced unprotected oral sex are eight times more likely than those who have not had oral sex to develop the HPV-related mouth and throat cancers, reports CBS News.
Merck, the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the HPV vaccine, has issued a statement that there are no current plans to research the usefulness of the vaccine against oropharyngeal cancers.
Source: Yahoo News