In the US, oral cancer due to HPV infection is now more common than developing oral cancer from tobacco. Scientists at Ohio State University say there is strong evidence linking oral sex to cancer, and have urged more study of how human papillomaviruses may be to blame for a rise in oral cancer among white men.
In the United States, oral cancer due to HPV infection is now more common than oral cancer from tobacco use, which remains the leading cause of such cancers in the rest of the world. Although the lifetime risk of developing oral cancer is 1.41%, odds are that 1 in 71 people will develop oral cancer in their lifetime. The single greatest factor that is increasing this number is contracting HPV from oral sex. This fifteen year study concluded that when the number of partners increases, the risk increases. Previous studies suggested that people who perform oral sex on six or more partners over their lifetime face an eight-fold higher risk of acquiring HPV-related head or neck cancer than those with fewer than six partners.
There are as many as 150 different types of HPV, and about 40 of those can be sexually transmitted, according to the National Cancer Institute. Some may cause genital warts, while other high-risk variants can cause oral, anal, vaginal and penile cancers. Genital warts are quite common and easily treated with cryotherapy that ablate warts by either using electrodessication or freezing them with liquid nitrogen.
According to the CDC, half of all sexually active Americans will get HPV at some point in their lives. Two vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, were approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2006 for HPV types that cause cervical cancer and genital warts.
A study published earlier this month in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the HPV vaccine could prevent 90 per cent of genital warts in men, and the vaccine has also been approved against anal cancer in men and women.
Doctors are still undecided about recommending the vaccine to the general population because research has not shown effectiveness beyond 5-8 years. If the vaccine does not last for a minimum of 15 years then it will only postpone cancer not prevent it.