Oral sex can increase risk of cancer by 22 times
Oral sex can increase the risk of getting cancer by 22 times, a new study has revealed.
It is understood that oral sex is the main way that the common human papillomavirus (HPV) ends up in the mouth. The HPV viruses affect the anus, cervix, mouth and throat by targeting the skin and membranes that line the body.
A new study published in the journal JAMA Oncology is the first to conclusively show a link between the HPV-16 virus and the presence of oropharyngeal tumours – which affect the soft palate of the mouth, the base of the tongue and the tonsils.
It’s not that HPV directly causes oropharyngeal cancer, the 11th most common cancer in the world, but it changes the cells that it infects and then that can cause them to become cancerous.
It has previously been reported that men are twice as likely to contract oropharyngeal cancer than women – meaning that cunnilingus is more dangerous than fellatio.
The study was carried out at New York’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where scientists looked at mouthwash samples provided by 97,000 cancer-free subjects. These people were then followed for around four years – with a total of 132 cases of head and neck cancer identified during this time.
It was found that those with HPV-16 in their samples were 22 times more likely to develop oropharyngeal cancer than those who had no trace of the virus in their samples.
The researchers also found that there was a link between having other types of oral HPVs in the samples and developing head and neck cancers.
“This study shows using easily collected oral mouthwash samples may help in predicting people's risk for developing head and neck cancers,” Albert Einstein College’s Dr Ilir Agalliu said of the findings.
The HPV virus, which can be spread by skin-to-skin contact as well as through sex, will affect almost everyone at some point in their lives.
Currently in the UK, girls aged 12 or 13 are offered an immunisation against the types of HPV that can lead to cervical cancer. However, a vaccination has yet to made available for adolescent boys, with a recommendation on whether one is necessary expected by 2017.