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Throat Cancer: The HPV and Oral Sex Connection

Over the past two decades, there has been a rapid increase in throat cancer cases in the West, to the extent that some have called it an epidemic. This increase has been primarily attributed to a specific type of head and neck cancer called oropharyngeal cancer.

Oropharyngeal cancer, commonly known as throat cancer or tonsil cancer refers to the cancer of the base and posterior one-third of the tongue, the tonsils, soft palate, and posterior and lateral pharyngeal walls.

What's causing this increase in oropharyngeal cancer?

It turns out that a significant factor is the human papillomavirus (HPV). Almost all of us will have HPV at some point in our lives, but having the virus doesn't necessarily mean that you will get cancer. However, it does increase your risk of certain types of cancer, including oropharyngeal cancer.

HPV is a sexually transmitted virus, and for oropharyngeal cancer, the main risk factor is the number of lifetime sexual partners, especially those involving oral sex. Those with six or more lifetime oral-sex partners are 8.5 times more likely to develop oropharyngeal cancer than those who do not practice oral sex.


The Conversation Africa

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