Sex! …. And Oral Cancer

DF2 Uncategorized

in the Washington Post that oral cancer is becoming more prevalent
in men.  The data, culled from insurance
claims, shows a 61% increase in oral cancer in men from 2011 to 2015.  The article suggests that the prevalence of
Human Papilloma Virus (“HPV”) is part of the reason. 
is a group of viruses named for the warts (papillomas) it can sometimes
cause.   There are some strains of HPV
that can also lead to cervical, anal, penile, and even oral cancers.  HPV is the most common sexually transmitted
infection, or STI; in fact, it is so common, that most sexually active men and
women have been exposed to it.  Oftentimes,
there are no symptoms of HPV infection, and one can exhibit symptoms long after
exposure.  The good news is that many HPV
infections do go away, and do not cause cancer.
Post’s article reports that although smoking rates have fallen, oral cancer
incidence has increased.  (Smoking,
drink, and the two combined have traditionally been thought of as the main risk
factors of oral cancer.  There is no
discussion of vaping or e-cigarettes in this article.)  The article reports the findings of a study following
young people that found a higher prevalence of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma
caused by HPV16 in men compared to women, and that men were less likely to
clear HPV infection.  (There are other
data from this study that I won’t discuss here.)
of the reasons for the rise in oral cancer is that more young men and women
engage in oral sex, thinking that it is safer, and, of course, oral sex cannot
result in a pregnancy.  The Post also
discusses that younger men are also more likely to have more partners than
older men.  
most important takeaway from this data and article is that disease does not
discriminate.  Risk factors such as
tobacco use and drinking, while still important, are not the sole predictors.  It’s also important to recognize that HPV
affects men, too (remember: HPV is an equal opportunity infector).  I am happy to discuss more about oral cancer and
HPV with all my patients, and strongly encourage you to also consult with your
physicians as well should you have any questions.

You can read more
information about HPV at the Center for Disease Control’s
Fact Sheet
.  And you can purchase the
original study through the Journal of Infectious Disease’s website here