Can Oral Sex Cause Cancer?

Recent reports have shown a rise in both oral and anal cancer caused by HPV in both women and men.

Recently, a fan emailed us asking: “I heard that HPV can cause cancer from a man giving a woman oral sex, but does the same apply to a woman performing oral sex on a man?”  So we ask the questions again: Can oral sex really cause throat cancer? What is throat cancer…and how is it related to HPV?

Cancer death rates continue to decline, according to the American Cancer Society. But cancer caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection most well known for causing genital warts and cervical cancer, is still largely a cause for concern. Recent reports have shown a rise in both oral and anal cancer caused by HPV in both women and men.

Oral infections of human papillomavirus, or HPV, affect nearly 7% of Americans, affecting three times as many men (10%) as women (3.6%).

What is HPV?

Genital human papillomavirus, or HPV, is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs). There are more than 40 types of HPV that can infect the genital areas of males and females. These HPV types can also infect the mouth and throat.

HPV can cause serious health problems, including genital warts and certain cancers, particularly cervical cancer and throat cancer. There is no certain way to tell who will develop health problems from HPV and who will not. In most cases, HPV goes away by itself before it causes any health problems, and most people who become infected with HPV do not even know they have it.

While the majority of those infected with HPV will clear the infection, researchers have been working to determine why some do and why some don’t develop cancer. A new study published in the journal Cancer investigated risk factors for HPV-associated throat cancer, such as the number of sex partners, sexual behaviors and relationship dynamics.

Researchers compared 163 cancer patients with 345 individuals without cancer. None of the participants had received the HPV vaccine, and more than 95% were over age 40. Participants gave a blood sample and answered questions on their sexual behavior.

The cancer patients in the study were about 80% more likely than those without cancer to have ever performed oral sex on a partner.

They were also younger when they performed oral sex for the first time—37% of cancer patients were under 18, compared with 23% without cancer.

What are some of the risk factors?

The No. 1 risk in contracting oral HPV and developing HPV-related throat cancer is having multiple oral sex partners. Having a higher number of partners increases the risk for both men and women.

Women experience less HPV-related throat cancer, researchers say, because…

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