Although smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol are the primary risk factors for oral cancer, the HPV virus may also be linked to oral cancer.
It is estimated that 35 percent of throat cancers are infected with HPV.
HPV has been demonstrated as one of the leading risk factors for cancer of the mouth and throat, known as oropharyngeal cancer.
The infection does not directly cause oral cancer. The virus triggers changes in the infected cells. The genetic material of the virus becomes part of cancer cells, causing them to grow. This can lead to the detection of HPV in people who have cancers that were caused by other factors.
Later on, these cells can become cancerous. However, few people with an HPV infection will develop cancer. In fact, the body clears around 90 percent of HPV infections within 2 years.
The subtypes of HPV found in the mouth are almost all sexually transmitted, so oral sex is a probable cause.
People who smoke are less likely to be able to clear an HPV infection because smoking damages immune cells in the skin. These normally help protect against viral damage.
In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007, researchers suggested that people who have oral sex with at least six different partners have a significantly higher risk of developing throat cancer.
The team recruited 100 patients who had recently been diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer, as well as a control group of 200 healthy individuals.
They found that people who had at least six oral sex partners during their lifetime were 3.4 times more likely to have throat cancer. Those with 26 or more vaginal sex partners had 3.1 times the risk of developing throat cancer.
The presence of oral HPV that could cause cancer was found in another study to be 14.9 percent in men who smoked tobacco and have had more than five oral sex partners.
Men with one of those risk factors saw a lower risk of throat cancer at 7.3 percent. Prevalence was much lower for both men (1.7 percent) and women (0.7 percent) who have had one lifetime oral sexual partner or less.
Many media outlets have represented this data poorly, framing oral sex as a direct cause of cancer.
However, the conclusions drawn from research to date are that HPV can be transmitted by oral sex and that it is linked to changes in the infected cells.
- There is now hope for HIV virus cure – Scientists reveals
- Watch as SANDF soldiers heads to Wuhan to bring back 122 South Africans from Wuhan
- Nigerian Prophet, Dr Davidd Kngleo Elijah sets sail to China, promises to end the spread of the deadly disease
- DJ Sunco – Ko Ko Matswale (William Risk Remix)
- Coronavirus: Mass arrest in China The detainees are chained and paraded like slaves