Virus Linked to Throat Cancer Trend
Oral Sex Considered a Risk Factor
WebMD News Archive
Throat Cancer Risk Factors continued...
These cancers are rare, accounting for just 10,000 of the roughly 45,000
head and neck malignancies diagnosed each year in the U.S. But their incidence
has remained steady, overall, Sturgis and Cinciripini write, and tongue cancer
rates among young adults have increased.
They conclude that this is likely due to HPV infection, spread through oral
Sturgis tells WebMD that over the last five years, 35% of the throat cancer
patients treated at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center had no history of smoking and
that close to 90% of patients who had never smoked showed evidence of oral
infection with HPV.
The HPV Vaccine
In the conclusion of their analysis, the researchers write that vaccinating
only females against HPV, which is currently the policy in the U.S., could
result in a missed opportunity to prevent throat cancers.
The HPV vaccine is being offered to males in Australia, Mexico, and some
other countries, but there is, as yet, no clinical proof that it works to
prevent HPV infection in men, says Debbie Saslow, PhD, of the American Cancer
In the U.S. the vaccine, marketed as Gardasil by Merck & Co., is
recommended for 11- to 12- year-old girls, and for women up to age 26 who have
not received it.
Studies are under way to determine if the vaccine protects boys against
genital HPV infection.
“The HPV vaccine is very effective protection against cervical cancer, and
there is a good chance that it will reduce the incidence of other types of
HPV-promoted cancers as well,” Saslow tells WebMD. “But we have no data to
confirm that, and we won’t have any in the near future.”