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This Study Reveals Oral Sex May Give You Cancer

October 20, 2017, 12:35 PM UTC

Men who smoke and go down on their partners might be the most at risk of a rare form of mouth and throat cancer, according to new research published in the journal Annals of Oncology.

Smokers who’ve had more than five sexual partners are posed with a greater risk of getting the cancer triggered by the human papilloma virus, says the New York Post. Men are more likely to contract HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer than women, although even for males, only 0.7% will develop the cancer. The virus that causes the cancer, however, is more common, and an estimated eight out of 10 people will be infected with the HPV virus at some point in their lives, according to the Post.

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Hundreds of different types of the HPV virus exist, and while most remain harmless, approximately 12 can cause cancer. The HPV virus is transmitted to the mouth and throat most evidently by performing oral sex, and the virus is known to be the cause of around 70% of oropharyngeal (the part of the throat behind the mouth and nasal cavity, above the oesophagus/larynx) cancers. Cancers of this variety appear at the base of the tongue, back of the throat, or tonsils.

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The Post notes HPV-related oropharyngeal cancers roughly tripled in British men and doubled in British women between 1995 and 2011, and are now predicted to overtake cervical cancer by 2020.

From the Post:

“For these reasons, it would be useful to be able to identify healthy people who are most at risk of developing oropharyngeal cancer in order to inform potential screening strategies, if effective screening tests could be developed” says Associate Professor Dr. Amber D’Souza at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. “Most people perform oral sex in their lives, and we found that oral infection with cancer-causing HPV was rare among women regardless of how many oral sex partners they had.”