Oral Sex Plus Smoking a Cancer Danger for Men

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And the greatest risk (nearly 15 percent) was seen among men who smoked and who also had five or more oral sex partners, the findings showed.

Almost 20 percent of men with genital HPV infections also had oral HPV, compared to just over 4 percent of men without genital HPV, the researchers also found. Women that had the lowest risk were ones who had one oral sex partner or less regardless if they were smokers or not.

For this study, researchers analyzed data from a survey of people between the ages of 20 and 69 with the total people involved being over 13,000, and calculated how many people had oral HPV infections.

"It would be useful to be able to identify healthy people who are most at risk of developing oropharyngeal cancer in order to inform potential screening strategies, if effective screening tests could be developed", Dr D'Souza said. They investigated how many of them carried traces of cancer-causing HPV, and compared that with the number of people who would be expected to get the head and neck cancer as a result.

Despite a rise in throat cancers caused by HPV the overall risk is still very low.

A high-risk strain of the virus, HPV 16, was the cause of oral infections in 7.3 percent of men and 1.4 percent of women.

The risk was much lower among women, those who did not smoke, and those who had less than five oral sex partners in their lifetimes. One recent study found that 11 million American men are infected with oral HPV.

The most common cancer related to HPV infection is what's known as oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC), a type of head and neck cancer that is disproportionately prevalent in men, researchers note in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

This survey is a nationally representative group, so it's likely that the vast majority of male participants who said they were the active partner in oral sex were heterosexual men engaging in cunnilingus.

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Men with various sex partners, but that do not have a history of smoking, had some risk, but not close to the same amount.

HPV 16 or 18 triggers most cervical cancer while HPV16 most throat cancer.

But the number of cases of oropharyngeal cancer is predicted to overtake cervical cancer by 2020, U.S. scientists warned.

Prevalence of infection for those reporting zero or one lifetime oral sex partner was consistently low, between 0 and 2.4 per cent.

For more about HPV, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Currently there are no tests that could be used for screening people for oropharyngeal cancer".

Associate Professor Amber D'Souza, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the USA, said: "For these reasons, it would be useful to be able to identify healthy people who are most at risk of developing oropharyngeal cancer in order to inform potential screening strategies, if effective screening tests could be developed".

Patti Gravitt is a professor in the department of global health at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She said the connection between oral HPV and smoking isn't clear.

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