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Oral Sex More Likely To Cause Throat Cancer Than Tobacco

Oral Sex More Likely To Cause Throat Cancer Than Tobacco

In a disturbing new finding, scientists warn that a virus spread during oral sex is now the main cause of throat cancer in people under the age of 50, outstripping tobacco as the major culprit.  The human papilloma virus, spread during unprotected sex, is mostly known as the cause of 70 percent of cervical cancers, but it can also lead to other cancers, like throat cancer.  A vaccine against some strains of the virus has been administered to young women and girls since 2008, and doctors have recommended that boys be vaccinated too.

This is particularly disturbing because of the discussion recently of young people’s attitudes toward oral sex, which can often be casual, to the point where many people don’t even consider oral sex to be “sex,” per se.  Only about 20 percent of college students who participated in a 2007 survey considered oral-genital contact to be sex, as opposed to the majority, which classed penile-vaginal and penile-anal contact as “sex.”  The way that people think about these different interactions has obvious and serious implications for how likely they are to use protection.

This has implications for the spread of viruses like HPV.  “What is most strongly linked to oral HPV infection is the number of sexual partners someone has had in their lifetimes, in particular the number of individuals on whom they have performed oral sex,” explained one of the researchers.  “The higher the number of partners that you’ve had, the greater the odds that you’d have an oral infection.”

But if young people don’t even consider oral sex to be sex, they are far less likely to weigh the implications of unprotected oral-genital contact.  It’s especially troubling because HPV often does not have symptoms.  The vaccine, however, is a promising solution.  Although researchers are not sure what impact it will have on the oral cancers caused by strains of HPV, they’re hopeful:

“We don’t know from strict scientific evidence whether the vaccine will protect from oral HPV infections that lead to cancer. Those of us in the field are optimistic it will – the vaccines in every anatomical site looked at so far have been shown to be extraordinarily effective, about 90 per cent effective, at preventing infections.”

There are two clear actions that we can take from this information: first, to make sure that as many people as possible are vaccinated for HPV (and to make sure that the vaccines are affodable and accessible), and to engage in wider education about sex that ensures that young and old people alike are aware of the risks posed by unprotected oral sex.  This means, once again, moving away from programs that privilege vaginal intercourse above all other kinds of sex, and giving people the tools and information that they need to make responsible sexual decisions.

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

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129 comments

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7:35PM PST on Jan 29, 2013

ah crap

2:36PM PST on Jan 27, 2013

So many say use Condoms?? I can't find any at the store to have safe oral sex with a Female ??

1:42AM PDT on Jul 10, 2011

OOPS!
15,000 adverse reactions, not 15!

1:40AM PDT on Jul 10, 2011

cont'd

Furthermore, if a person already HAS an HPV infection, which may have no symptoms, this vaccine can result in massive genital wart outbreaks or pre-cancerous cervical lesions; in other words, if you have already been exposed to HPV, this drug makes it WORSE!

There are problems with this drug. It has way higher rates of deaths and serious side effects than other vaccines do. It took this same drug company over 27,000 deaths before VIOXX got pulled off the market. I'm just wondering: how many dead teens will be required to pull THIS drug as unsafe?

And the capper? MOST people exposed to HPV clear the virus from their systems within 2 years, leaving them no long-term effects except natural immunity to that HPV strain. In the US cervical cancers are 1% of cancer. So WHY are we doing this?

1:38AM PDT on Jul 10, 2011

A word of caution. Two Merck biologists were on the FDA panel that approved this drug (no conflict of interest I'm sure). It was fast-tracked and was approved before testing even ended. We are already mandating it be given to our daughters, all of them, and even girls as young as age 9. NOW big pharma wants all our sons to get it, too. It wasn't tested on kids that young, at least not until it was on the market (if a drug wasn't on the market for at least 7 years, you're a lab rat if you take it). The HPV vaccine could be more of a risk than we want to take on; they aren't even sure it will prevent the oral disease. Heck, they don't even know how long it protects you from the 4 out of 40 strains of HPV it covers. The 3 doses cost on average $165 per dose. If EVERYONE gets it, girls and boys (not just here, they also market it in other countries) the profits to be made are staggering. But big pharma never puts profits ahead of people, right???

As of 2009, when it had been on the market about 2 years, there were 48 deaths (14 were girls under 16) and 15, adverse reactions from this vaccine. Long-term side effects include seizures, strokes, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, and heart trouble. Fatalities were anywhere from a couple days to a few weeks after receiving a dose. (Which have all been called coincidental, like your healthy child would just coincidentally dies two days after the shot). Furthermore, if a person already HAS an HPV infection, which may have no symptoms, this vac

1:28AM PDT on Jul 10, 2011

yes, young girls (even in their 20's) don't consider oral sex as 'sex'
we need better sex/health education starting early. I would be hard pressed to run for a vaccine we need much more facts about this. I don't trust BigPharma propaganda
Choose wisely and be safe!

12:59AM PDT on Jul 10, 2011

Todd K. you are totally right on about the pharmaceutical companies making their profits. As far as lying to the public , look at all the lawsuits and or class actions against drug after drug , supposedly endorsed by the FDA. I am personally sick of corporate America---it is killing us at a higher rate , through our food , medicines, environment and our Morals. It is sad people only get concerned or upset if it affects their sex life or pocket books. People and the entire planet are being murdered by corporate america --- AND IT NEEDS TO CHANGE RADICALLY-- by the citizens of America.

11:45PM PDT on Jul 9, 2011

WOW such scepticism, so many jokes, oral cancer is no joke. An acquantance of mine was diagnosed with stage 4 tongue cancer 2 months ago, she had the feeling something was scratching way back on her tongue, saw 4 Dr's over a month who couldn't see anything but it annoyed her. The last Dr tested her. She's had radiation and chemo and now they're going to remove her tongue and it's in her lymph glands too. She can't talk now, already can't eat, wil never be able to, will have a tube. Her face will deform. She will probably die. Multiple oral sex partners. HPV is no joke.

10:05PM PDT on Jul 9, 2011

I guess the most disturbing part of this finding is that SOMEHOW many teen girls now believe that oral insertion is not the same as vaginal insertion and doesn't count as sex. Teens seem more confsued than ever when it comes to sex. Why?? Because it seems parents discus it less or too late with their kids, AND the religious right fights against s_e_x being properly discussed in school. I graduated in 1975 and it seems in thirty-five years it is discussed in the classroom a lot less despite sex being MUCH more dangerous.

8:48PM PDT on Jul 9, 2011

Interesting information.

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