HPV is the major cause of cervical cancers, genital as well as anal cancer, head and neck cancers. Common risk factors for the head and neck cancers are smoking and drinking. However, oral HPV infection may raise the possibilities of cancer by 50%, according to the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center research team. They claim that there is significant increase in the cases of head and neck cancers over the last three decades and HPV is considered as the underlying cause of it.
The data is used by the researchers from a cross-sectional study as part of the 2009-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. All the people were asked to provide their skin cell samples for testing from their mouths and were also interviewed about their way of life along with the sexual history. The overall incidence of oral HPV infection was about 7%. The incidence of HPV increased with lifetime or the current number of partners for any kind of sex, vaginal or oral sex.
Team led by Dr. Maura Gillison, the writing in JAMA states that their finding would be very influential for the research into the existing HPV vaccines and how effective they could be in the prevention of the oral cancers. The writing quotes: “Vaccine efficacy against oral HPV infection is unknown, and therefore vaccination cannot currently be recommended for the primary prevention of oropharyngeal cancer.”
Further stating, “Given an analysis of US cancer registry data recently projected that the number of HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers diagnosed each year will surpass that of invasive cervical cancers by the year 2020, perhaps such vaccine trials are warranted.”
The health information manager at Cancer Research UK, Jessica Harris said, “As we learn how common HPV infections in the mouth are, and how they are passed on, we can understand more about who most at risk is and how people can reduce the risk of HPV-related cancers.” She also said, “Although there isn’t yet any evidence to show whether HPV vaccination is effective at preventing oral HPV infections, results like these are vital to help inform prevention programmes in the future.”