Can Oral Sex Really Cause Throat Cancer?

Couple posing for photo on the beachCan oral sex really cause throat cancer? What is throat cancer…and how is it related to HPV?

Cancer death rates continue to decline, according to the American Cancer Society. But cancer caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection most well known for causing genital warts and cervical cancer, is still largely a cause for concern. Recent reports have shown a rise in both oral and anal cancer caused by HPV in both women and men.

Oral infections of human papillomavirus, or HPV, affect nearly seven percent of Americans, affecting three times as many men (10 percent) as women (3.6 percent).

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In fact, HPV is now a more common cause of throat and other oral cancers than tobacco.

What is HPV?

Genital human papillomavirus, or HPV, is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs). There are more than 40 types of HPV that can infect the genital areas of males and females. These HPV types can also infect the mouth and throat.

HPV can cause serious health problems, including genital warts and certain cancers, particularly cervical cancer and throat cancer. There is no certain way to tell who will develop health problems from HPV and who will not. In most cases HPV goes away by itself before it causes any health problems, and most people who become infected with HPV do not even know they have it.

Experts are now looking into determining if the newly available HPV vaccine is effective in males. The vaccine has been shown to be almost 100 percent effective for preventing cervical infection.

Throat Cancer

Throat cancer, defined as cancer of the oropharynx, includes the tonsils, base of the tongue and soft palate, and side and back of the throat.

Tobacco use and drinking alcohol are still risk factors for head and neck cancers. About 90% of patients with these malignancies either smoke or chew tobacco, or have done so in the past, and up to 80% of oral cancer patients also drink a lot of alcohol, according to the American Cancer Society.

However, over the last five years, 35 percent of the throat cancer patients treated had no history of smoking, and 90 percent of these patients showed evidence of oral infection with HPV.

Oral Sex Does Not Equal Safe Sex

Based on new findings, experts agree that it is critical for people to understand that oral sex is not necessarily always safe sex. Which is why it’s important to continue to take precautions to better protect your health, including annual STD screening, talking to your partners about their sexual history, and using protection while having sex.