Oral Cancer Linked to HPV on the Rise
The number of head and neck cancers linked to sexually-transmitted human papillomavirus has increased according to the Journal of Clinical Oncology. The risk for HPV oral cancer has been on the rise since the 1980s.
In 1989, about 16% of oropharyngeal cancers, cancers of the tonsils, upper throat and base of the tongue, tested HPV-positive. By 2000-04, HPV-positive oral cancer increased to 72%. Instead of most oral cancers being caused by tobacco and alcohol, most are now HPV-related.
HPV is most known as the virus that results in cervical cancer in women, but the study predicts that by 2020 oral cancer may become the most common HPV-related cancer. However, the reach of HPV-related cancer is not limited to women. In fact, the risk for HPV oral cancer is greater and rising in among men, and eventually those with HPV caused cancers will be mostly men.
There were almost 35,000 new cases of oral and oropharyngeal cancers in 2011, according to the American Cancer Society. Even though about 7,000 Americans will die this year of oral cancer, the death rates have been declining over the last 30 years.
The bright side for those diagnosed with HPV-positive form of oral cancer is their tumors usually have less genetic damage, so they have a better prognosis, and the cancer responds to treatment better.
The best preventative options for HPV related oral cancer is through abstaining from sexual activity, limiting the amount of sexual partners you have and practicing safe sex.
Early detection for HPV-related oral cancer is the key to prevent any serious complications. If you are sexually active and have suspicious oral lesions, or other signs of oral cancer, contact your doctor to get a screening test for oral cancer.