HPV sex virus ‘causing throat cancer’

A common virus spread through oral sex may be triggering a steep rise in types of throat and mouth cancer, researchers have warned, as they urge male HPV vaccine...

A common sexually transmitted infection that can be spread through oral sex may be triggering a steep rise in types of throat cancer, researchers have warned.

Human Pappillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer, although most infections clear with little or no symptoms.

But after cases of oropharyngeal cancer – which begins in the middle of the throat – surged by 51 per cent in British men between 1989 and 2006, scientists are urging that boys as well as girls be given an HPV vaccine.

Mouth and throat cancers are normally associated with excessive smoking and drinking and they usually strike older people, killing around a third of sufferers within two years.

However, between 60 and 80 per cent of recent oropharyngeal cancer biopsies in the US found HPV, while there has been a 70 per cent increase in finding the virus in cases of the cancer in Sweden, the research, published in the British Medical Journal, found.

‘We know HPV can cause oropharyngeal cancer, as well as several other types of cancer,’ said Neil Barrie of Cancer Research UK. ‘But although HPV infection is common, the virus causes cancer only in a minority of people.

‘It will be interesting to see if the HPV vaccine could help to reduce rates of oropharyngeal cancer. The vaccine protects against cervical cancer by immunising women against the two most common cancer-causing types of HPV.’

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