Enough to Leave You Speechless

Alarming uptick in incidences of head and neck cancer in young Americans; oral sex implicated

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Cancers of the tonsil and base of the tongue have increased in the U.S. among middle-aged and young adults, most of which are related to human papillomavirus (HPV).

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There are more than 40 types of HPV, which can infect the genital areas of males and females and sometimes affect the throat and mouth.

Dr. Greg Hartig, professor of otolaryngology--head and neck surgery at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison said a rise in the popularity of oral sex, in particular, along with sex in general is associated with increased HPV infection.

The association between oral sex and oral cancers is somewhat speculative, experts say, though the link between HPV and these types of cancers is inextricable.

Tests of younger people with head and neck cancers who tested positive for oral HPV infection reported multiple vaginal and oral sex partners. According to the study, six or more oral sex partners increased risk of oropharyngeal cancer (which affect the base of the tongue, back of the throat or the tonsils) by 3.4 times. Having 26 or more vaginal-sex partners tripled the risk.

Symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer include a lump in the neck, a sore in the mouth or throat that does not heal (the most common symptom), ear or jaw pain, chronic bad breath, change in voice and a persistent sore throat, among others.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 28, 2011
Last Updated:
January 31, 2011