It is widely known that Human Papillomavirus (HPV) has been linked to cervical cancer. But new research has shown that there is a link between HPV and Oropharynx cancer; commonly referred to as cancer of the head and neck.
In a study involving 96,650 people who were initially cancer free, the American Cancer Society found that after some time, 132 of them had developed oropharynx cancer (this refers to cancer in the mouth or the area at the top of the throat just behind the mouth). A closer look at the people who contracted the disease showed that the presence of oral HPV-16 (a particular strand of HPV) increased the risk of cancer by 22 times.
“The results of our study are consistent with findings from other studies demonstrating that HPV-16 is a cause of oropharynx cancer, and extends those findings by showing that oral HPV-16 infection precedes cancer development by many years,” study co-author Susan Gapstur, PhD, MPH said on the American Cancer Society blog on Sunday. “The study also demonstrated for the first time that other HPV types might be associated with cancer risk. However, these findings should be interpreted cautiously and need replication in larger studies.”
Of the 132 people who contracted the cancer, 103 were male, making the risk much higher for males who are carrying HPV.
Unfortunately there is no cure for HPV but there are many vaccines that can protect people from numerous strands of the virus. “Increasing education about the role of HPV infection as a cause of several types of cancer, along with increasing HPV vaccination rates, may help to prevent multiple HPV-related cancers in future generations,” Gapstur says.
It has been reported that over 79 million Americans have the HPV virus with over 14 million new cases reported yearly. Even more alarming is the statistic that up to 80% of sexually active people will probably contract the virus in their lifetime and most of them will never know they have it.
If you are sexually active and are looking for information about HPV vaccines, your doctor is always a good starting point.