Cancer from oral sex

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.



  1. Gregorio
    Posted February 28, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    I saw this information the other day and found it to be somewhat alarming. Knowing that the statistics show the percentage of gay men with HPV is in the range of 60-70%, what would be your recommendation for gay men as far as being checked for oral/head/neck cancer?? (ie. how often to be checked, at what age to start, should it be done at a specialist versus primary care physician, etc.)

  2. spinellimd
    Posted February 28, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s important to be cognizant of any oral lesions, particularly those that look like papules or cauliflower like growths. See your doctor or oral surgeon for confirmation of a diagnosis. Then once you’ve had confirmed HPV lesion in your mouth, you should have them treated and followed up every six months until they are completely resolved and then annually after that.

  3. Posted March 4, 2011 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Thank you for posting this important (and scary) information.

    I just saw the “sleeping with your pet” terror story on FOX television. You’re way ahead of the pack!! 🙂

  4. Posted March 13, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    I am so dead.

  5. spinellimd
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    Jesse, you in danger girl.

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