March 29, 2010, [PDN]: recent scientific research indicates that those who overindulge in oral sex run a high risk of contracting head and neck cancers and these are on the increase. To contain such risks, it is being advised by medical experts that the young in general and, girls in particular, should be offered protection in the form of vaccines, ideally before they become sexually active.
The virus that may lead to cancers of the head and neck, specifically oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma, is called papillomavirus (HPV), and the vaccines considered effective against it are Cervarix, made by GlaxoSmithKline, and Gardasil, made by Merck & Co. HPV is also considered to be the active virus in cervical cancer. Head and neck cancer is the sixth most common form of cancer, with approximately 640,000 new cases being diagnosed annually around the world.
Having more than five lifetime sexual partners, or more than three lifetime oral sex partners increased one’s risk of developing oropharyngeal carcinoma. In men, the earlier one had sex also increased the risk. So far, the young have shown the most instances of HPV-related head and neck cancers, however, the good news is that the tumours of this kind were not as deadly as those related to smoking and drinking, accordingly, patients may also live longer.
In the earlier study, appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), men and women who had over five oral-sex partners during their lifetime ran a nearly ninefold increased risk of developing cancer of the tonsils or at the base of the tongue. Again, these cancers were linked to the HPV, which can also cause penile cancer, and anal squamous cell carcinoma. Those who have had over five oral-sex partners in their lifetime are 250% more likely to have throat cancer than those who do not have oral sex, The relatively young, in their 30s and 40s were those in whom the recent increases in such cancers were apparent, which were put down to a change in sexual mores since the 20th century; however, using condoms significantly reduced the risk.
Dr. Robert Haddad, clinical director of the Head and Neck Oncology Program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Haddad maintains that public awareness of the HPV virus needs to be similar to that of HIV/AIDS because the virus causes multiple types of cancer. “The idea that oral sex is risk-free is not correct. It comes with significant risks, and developing cancer is one of them,” Haddad warned, ominously.
Reporter: Taliesin Verity (Chief-Reporter)