Virus That Cause Cervical Cancer, Responsible for Oral Cancer, Too

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Before, smokers and drinkers worry having prolonged sore throat due its link to a possible oral and throat cancer. However, a later study proved another risk that sexually transmitted viruses are also linked to the development of oral cancer.

Cervical cancer is linked to HPV or the Human Papilloma Virus. But recent studies also say that the said virus can also cause cancer in the upper throat. According to a new study, HPV-positive tumors are responsible for many cases of what is called as oropharyngeal cancer.

The National Cancer Institute and researchers from the Ohio State University reported last Monday that if this certain trend persists, this form of cancer will turn out to be the main HPV-related cancer within the decade. This will even surpass that of cervical cancer, the most known HPV-related cancer.

“There is an urgency to try to figure out how to prevent this,” according to Dr. Amy Chen from the American Cancer Society and Emory University. Most cases of HPV related oral cancer happen to women; however researchers reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology that the risk and incidence is greater and rising among the male population. This raises the inquiry as to whether the vaccine given to women are also effective in preventing oral cancer, the way it gives protection against cervical cancer.

For boys and men, HPV vaccination is advisable for prevention of genital warts and anal cancer which are also due to human papilloma virus. According to Dr. Maura Gillison, senior author of the new research, it is important to study the protection against HPV between men and women because it is also possible to have HPV in one part of the body, but also not in the other.

There are about 10,000 new cases of oropharyngeal cancer each year and the number of cases has risen by 28% since 1988, as compared to other cancers of the head and neck region which are declining in numbers. This rise of cases of oropharyngeal cancer has been linked to tobacco use            and alcohol consumption which have been long known to cause these tumors. However, HPV has been found to play a role in this rise due to an increase in the practice of oral sex.

Oral cancers have always been a big threat to men than women. Women account for only one for every four cases and the incidence among men is slowly rising while that of women is steady. According to researchers, women tend to clear the virus from their cervix quickly and only those long term infections are the ones putting risk to cervical cancer. And it is also not known if HPV-related oral cancer has a similar behavior.

Because of the help of pap smears, there has been a steady decline with the yearly incidence of cervical cancers (about 11,000 this year). The research team predicted that that the rate will continue to decline in the coming years while that of oral cancer will rise.

Finally, according to Chen, “just because you’re not a smoker or drinker doesn’t mean you can’t get throat cancer, so get checked for symptoms like a throat that’s sore for longer than two weeks.”




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