Science Scope

Oral sex dangers: HPV linked to head and neck cancers

Posting in Cancer

The sex virus has been linked to a rise in head and neck cancers, making health organizations consider vaccinating boys as well as girls.

Developing countries can blame oral sex for the increase in a certain type of head and neck cancer, specifically a mouth cancer called oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma.

In many countries, campaigns have been in place to encourage young girls to get vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV), a sex virus that causes 80 percent of cervical cancer cases. In the states, the poor can't afford the vaccine. And others hesitate because they are worried about the safety of the vaccine.

Reuters reports:

  • There are 500,000 cases of cervical cancer. 200,000 women die from it.
  • Head and neck cancer is the 6th most common cancer.
  • People at risk for oropharyngeal carcinoma have had more than 6 life-time sexual partners or at least 4 oral sex lovers.
  • People with head and neck cancers were young and currently working.

The study published in the British Medical Journal suggests it might be worth it to vaccinate boys before they are sexually active. If the girls are getting vaccinated, the boys should be vaccinated too.

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Boonsri Dickinson

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Boonsri Dickinson is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. She has written for Discover, The Huffington Post, Forbes, Nature Biotech,, and AOL. She's currently a reporter for Business Insider. She holds degrees from the University of Florida and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure