Finding out oral sex may lead to higher incidences of certain types of cancer is like finding out puppies may give you a stroke or rainbows can blind you. It is just horrible. Yet, that's exactly what a new study suggests. The study links the up-tick in certain types of head and neck cancers to the human papillomavirus (HPV) which can be transmitted through oral sex.
According to studies 75-80% of sexually active Americans will get the virus at some point in their lives, and about 45% of those between the ages of 20 and 24 currently carry it. The virus can manifest by causing warts, but is also known as a trigger of certain types of cancers.
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The researchers also reported that cancers of the tonsil and base of the tongue have been increasing every year since 1973, and wrote that "widespread oral sex practices among adolescents may be a contributing factor in this increase."
The researchers concluded that in their study, oral sex was "strongly associated" with oropharyngeal cancer, but noted that they could not "rule out transmission through direct mouth-to-mouth contact" such as French kissing.
In 90 percent of cases of HPV infection in the body, the immune system clears HPV naturally within two years, according to federal health agencies, but in some cases, certain types of HPV can lead to cervical cancer or less common malignancies, such as oropharyngeal cancer. A 2010 Swedish study, in fact, suggested that the rise in oropharyngeal squamous cell cancer in a number of countries "is caused by a slow epidemic of HPV infection-induced [cancers]."