Oral sex causes throat cancer

Throat A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University in the USA suggests that Human Papillomavirus (HPV) poses a greater risk in contracting cancer than smoking or alcohol. The study of 300 people also found that that those with more than six partners were almost nine times at greater risk of contracting the disease. And those who had already experienced a previous oral HPV infection were 32 times more likely to develop cancer. HPV is the cause of roughly 70 per cent of cervical cancers. Researchers believed oral sex was the main mode of transmission of HPV but could not rule out that it could also be passed through kissing. During the study, men and women who had been recently diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer had blood and saliva samples taken and were also asked about their sexual practices and family history. They found HPV16 – one of the most common cancer-causing strains of the virus – was present in the tumours of 72 per cent of cancer patients. Scientists said the majority of HPV infections had no symptoms and often did not require treatment, but a small percentage of those who contracted high-risk strains may go on to develop cancer.

Oral Sexual Behaviors Associated with Prevalent Oral Human Papillomavirus Infection. J Infect Dis. Mar 25 2009
Oral human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is a cause of oropharyngeal cancer. We investigated whether sexual behaviors that elevated the odds of oropharyngeal cancer developing in a case-control study similarly elevated the odds of oral HPV infection developing among control patients. HPV infection was detected in 4.8% of 332 control patients from an outpatient clinic and in 2.9% of 210 college-aged men (age range, 18-23 years). Among control patients, the odds of infection developing independently increased with increases in the lifetime number of oral or vaginal sex partners. Among college-aged men, the odds of oral HPV infection developing increased with increases in the number of recent oral sex partners or open-mouthed kissing partners but not vaginal sex partners. Oral sex and open-mouthed kissing are associated with the development of oral HPV infection.


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3 Responses to Oral sex causes throat cancer

  1. RH Bennett PhD says:

    Your Title, Oral Sex causes throat cancer, is NOT supported by the data. There may be an statistical association and they found one also for open mouth kissing. Confounding factors, like genotypes or immune status were not examined. A less sensational title would be more appropriate.

    • AJCann says:

      Fair comment, and thanks for making it. You’re correct that the paper discussed does not prove that oral sex causes throat cancer, although it does show a statistically significant association. However, the purpose of this site is to promote interest in microbiology, and to do that in the cacophony which is the internet, it needs to attract attention. I thought very carefully before chosing that title, and it may be that many people agree with your viewpoint that title is too sensational. It’s not, it is quite deliberate. While I’m not trying to be a scientific journal, I always link to the research findings I am discussing so readers can make up their own minds. If one person read this article who would not otherwise have done so, or one person became aware of the oncogenic potential of human papillomaviruses, or a single person developed an interest in microbiology as a result, I feel justified.

      Please keep reading and commenting. I’ll try not to do it again ;-)

  2. Donna says:

    I think you’ve done a great public service making people aware of this, and I know it’s the truth.

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