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Oral Sex Now Causes Cancer Risks Higher Than Cigarettes or Smoking

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by copythat

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In The News

Oral sex is now deemed more dangerous than tobacco -- a health risk now making it the leading cause of cancer in the United States through transmission of HPV. Cancer rates in young white males ranks highest.

Oral sex is now the the leading cause of cancer rates in the United States -- with a 225% increase in oral cancer stemming from human papillomavirus (HPV) since just 1974. The study, published in New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), shows that men and women who have had sex with six or more oral sex partners, in a lifetime, increased risk of becoming ill with oral cancer by eight-fold.

The more oral sex someone has had, and the more partners they've had, the bigger the increase of risk in oral cancers -- cancers that grow in the middle part of the throat.

The biggest rise in oropharnx or throat cancer is among young, white men -- researchers don't know why exactly, but there's an obvious guess. Oral cancer diagnoses for 2010 shows approximately 37,000 people with cancer.

Though people who get HPV-related throat cancer are more likely to survive that cancer than heavy smokers or drinkers afflicted with the illness, the number of people affected by cancer spread through oral sex is greater.

Researchers say the message may be most important for teens -- with oral sex much more common in the past decade than vaginal sex, and the idea that teenagers don't necessarily consider oral sex to technically fall into the category of "sex". In more recent years, parents and organizations have pushed the ideas of safer sex and STDs. It's possible that teenagers are substituting oral sex for vaginal sex, with a misconception that oral sex is safer. But HPV is spread through mouth-to-genital contact, a fact of which many teens may not be fully aware.

Across the world, HPV-related cancers are on the rise: research says that 40 years ago, 23 percent of oral cancer tumors in 1970 were positive for HPV but the number's skyrocketed. Just over five years ago, in 2005, the number of cancer tumors positive for HPV had risen to 93 percent.

In the rest of the world outside of the U.S., tobacco remains the leading cause of oral cancer.

Only in recent years have health officials been pushing for vaccinations -- urging parents to ensure that their daughters are vaccinated against HPV, in order to help prevent cervical cancer. There are now suggestions that men could also be helped by the vaccines, with young white males currently showing the highest oral cancer rates in the United States.

No one knows definitively whether the vaccines against HPV, Gardasil and Cervarix, prevent throat cancer but think it's reasonable to believe the vaccines could reduce health risks.

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