University of Northern Florida
Oral Sex now major concern in causes of throat cancer
24 Mar 2011
Scientists across the country are finding oral sex causes throat cancer — passing tobacco as the leading cause in the United States. The reason behind this concern for oral sex is the potential infections behind the human papillomavirus (HPV).
HPV has consistently been a topic of concern because it is the same virus that causes cervical cancer. HPV is a common sexually transmitted disease that infects about 40 million people today. There are over 120 different strands of the virus.
According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, 37,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year, and 8,000 will die. These numbers include people who use tobacco as well as those engaging in oral sex. However, people who develop cancer through oral sex are more likely to survive cancer than heavy smokers or drinkers.
According to National Public Radio, Dr. Maura Gillison of Ohio State University said to members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science that the human papillomavirus (HPV) causes roughly 64 percent of oropharynxl cancers.
The oropharynx is the part of the throat at the back of the mouth that includes the back third of the tongue, the soft palate, the side and back walls of the throat, and the tonsils.
When it comes to infections transmitted through oral sex, people mainly need to be concerned with HIV, HPV and gonorrhea, said Dr. John Oliver, a UNF adjunct psychology professor who teaches a class called “Human Sexuality.”
Oliver said many studies are focusing on sex between males and females, but he said he believes the virus can be contracted through homosexual or bisexual activity, as well.
“We have to assume the virus is transmitted either way,” Oliver said.
Kendall McCray, a counselor at the UNF Health Promotion department, said many students need to make sure they have condoms with them at all times, even if they are not planning on having sex. He said while oral sex is a potential risk, it is not as risky as intercourse for contracting STIs.