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.