CDC study links HPV to oral cancer

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has established the human papillomavirus (HPV) as a risk factor for oral cancer in a new study (Emerging Infectious Diseases, November 2010, Vol. 16:11). It is now counted among other risk factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and chewing tobacco and betel nuts.

Cases of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) have been increasing worldwide, and the study focused on HPV's role in the slow epidemic. The recent push for vaccinations for girls and women against HPV have heightened awareness of its association with cervical cancer, genital warts, and now with tumors such as head and neck and anogenital cancers.

In the report, researchers support efforts to better understand whether HPV vaccines are effective against mouth and throat cancer tumors and the possibility of expanding vaccinations to include boys and men.

The CDC study attributes the spread of HPV primarily to sexual activity including open-mouth kissing, oral sex, and sexual intercourse. It also cites changing sexual behavior among populations, such as sexual activity occurring earlier in life, as a potential cause for the rise in HPV-related oral cancers.

Copyright © 2010

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