The American Cancer Society reported recently that the rate of oral cancer tumors possibly caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) is on an incline:
“Like investigators elsewhere, we’re seeing an increased incidence of oropharyngeal cancer,” says Dr. John Deeken, a medical oncologist at Georgetown’s Lombardi Cancer Center. Cancer-causing HPV strains tend to infect immune cells at the base of the tongue and tonsils, Deeken explains. “This may be why we’re seeing the virus in tumors in those parts of the oropharynx, while the incidence of lip, larynx, and vocal cord cancers is not going up.”
If the cancer were simply caused by infection with HPV upon sexual transmission there would be more cases in women, he considers.
“The epidemiology is perplexing,” he says. “The assumption, when we noticed the trend eight or nine years ago, was that this was a sexually transmitted disease due to more oral sex,” he says. “But at least at Georgetown, we have patients in their 80s with this kind of cancer,” he notes. “That raises questions about the sexual habits of Americans who are older, or about HPV.”
So there you have it. Keep having oral sex or maybe don’t, you crazy kids. What do you think of this latest study?