Increase in Oral Sex Equals Rise in Throat Cancer?

tutvumine eestis
06.12.2009

A dramatic increase in the number of cases of throat and mouth cancers in the U.S. over the past 20 years can be linked to an increase in oral sex, according to the American Association for Cancer Research.

During a July 29th press conference, the association presented research data indicating the human papilloma virus, a sexually transmitted virus also culpable in cervical cancer, can cause tumors of the throat, tonsils and tongue. According to Scott Lippman, MD, chair of the thoracic department at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, HPV infections are found in 60-percent of the patients who present with mouth and throat cancers.

Twenty years ago, only about 20-percent of throat and mouth cancer patients tested positive for HPV infection, Lippman said. At that time, smoking and alcohol abuse were considered the primary risk factors for oropharyngeal tumors.

"The percentage of oropharyngeal cancers that are HPV positive is much higher now than it was 20 years ago, " Lippman told the press conference. "This is a real trend, and that is why there is concern of an epidemic given that fact that oropharyngeal cancer is increasing at an alarming rate."

Added American Cancer Society Chief Medical Officer Otis Brawley, MD, "Changing sexual practices over the last 20 years, especially as they relate to oral sex, are increasing the rate of head and neck cancers and may be increasing the rates of other cancers, as well."

The affected population is changing, too.

"The types of patients we are seeing now with oropharyngeal cancers are not the patients we have classically seen who were older, smokers and have lots of other problems, " Lippman said. "These are young people, executives, a whole different population."

Part of the reason for the shifting paradigm, the doctors noted, may be that young people may have been led to believe sex that does not include vaginal intercourse is "abstinent" or "safe sex." The notion is far from the truth. HIV, HPV, Chlamydia and gonorrhea all can be transmitted during oral sex, the doctors said.

"There is a huge public health message here, " Brawley said.

 

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