HPV and oral cancer

Updated: Sep 6, 2020

HPV in General

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease. It can transfer via oral, vaginal or anal sex. It produces varying physical manifestations depending on the strain contracted, but an individual can be an asymptomatic carrier for years before having any physical manifestations of the infection. For example, warts can appear on or near the genital area.


HPV can cause cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis or anus. It can also cause cancers in the pharynx or larynx.


HPV continues to spread within the population, so it has never been more important to get teste, practice safe sex methods (use a condom) and act your healthcare professional about the HPV vaccines.


All three vaccines prevent infection from HPV-16 and HPV-18. These two strains are implicated in over 70% of cervical cancers and pre-cancerous lesions. HPV-16 is also (alongside smoking) a major cause of oropharyngeal cancer.

As of 2018, HPV-related oropharynx cancers are on the rise, while smoking related cancers of the larynx are declining.


Oropharyngeal Cancer



HPV is estimated to cause 70% of oropharyngeal cancers. There are hundreds of strains of the HPV virus, but the most common cause of oropharyngeal cancer is HPV-16. HPV 18 has also been associated with this disease.


HPV-16 is estimated to cause 60% of oropharyngeal cancers. Oropharyngeal cancer is four times more common in men than women. Signs and symptoms include (but are not limited to) throat soreness, redness, white patches, difficulty chewing or speaking, lump(s) around the neck or changes in how teeth bite together.

Did you know?

It is speculated that Actor Michael Douglas’s stage 4 tongue cancer was caused by an HPV infection. This is attributed to an earlier conversation between Douglas and The Guardian.

Prevention

Visit your dentist


Early detection saves lives. Visit your dentist regularly as they are specialized in understanding and identifying normal and abnormal anatomy or symptoms.

Vaccination


HPV vaccinations are typically recommended from age 11 through 26, but older adults may opt to get them too. This will not impart guaranteed immunity, but vaccinated adults have shown lower levels. of HPV infections, including strains associated with cancers.


Stay Safe


Use a condom. Get tested. Everyone.

Get tested, again

HPV is common (about 14 million new cases arise in the United States each year), so get tested if you have a new sexual partner or develop any physical signs/symptoms.

Eliminate Alcohol and Tobacco

Consuming either substance increases the risk of developing oropharyngeal cancer. Avoid or limit consumption. HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer has better prognosis than oropharyngeal cancer in an HPV-free patient. The latter is usually attributed to smoking, but there are other or idiopathic causes. HPV-negative oropharyngeal cancer also has a different treatment sequence.

Sources:

  1. https://www.cancer.gov/types/head-and-neck/patient/adult/oropharyngeal-treatment-pdq

  2. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12180-oropharyngeal-cancer

  3. https://www.mdanderson.org/cancer-types/throat-cancer.html

  4. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/infectious-agents/hpv-vaccine-fact-sheet

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