The ubiquitous virus that causes genital warts and cervical cancer is now appearing higher up in the body. The Human papilloma virus is being identified in head and neck cancers, leading researchers to consider that the virus may be transmitted by oral sex, according to this story published in the Toronto Star.
HPV is the most common virus in the world today and most people will get it at some point in their lives with few or no symptoms, according to the Society of Gynecologists and Obstetricians of Canada. And Health Canada states that few people who have HPV will go on to develop cancer. However, oncologist Dr. David Brizel of Duke University told reporter Sarah Avery, ‘A third of head and neck cancers we see nowadays are HPV.’
While there are no studies that directly identify oral sex as a cause of head and neck cancers, the article sites a 2007 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that suggests a correlation between a high number of oral sex partners and HPV cancers.
On the flip side, some researchers say the idea that oral sex is responsible for increased head and neck cancers doesn’t hold water.
‘Are you saying that oral sex is more common now than 30 years ago? I don’t think so,’ Dr. Peter Cartwright, also of Duke University, said in the article.
Touché, Dr. Cartwright.
The article goes on to suggest that people may have more partners these days and become sexually active earlier in life. Now I’m no doctor (nor do I play one on TV. Bada-bing!), but I don’t buy the whole idea that kids today are more sexual than ever before in history. Do you?
However, this information does raise the question of whether all kids, boys and girls, should be vaccinated against HPV. What do you think? Should the HPV vaccine become a standard inoculation for all children?