Over the past two decades, there has been a rapid increase in throat cancer in the West, and oral sex has emerged as the leading risk factor for oropharyngeal cancer.
This article will delve into the link between oral sex and throat cancer and explore the potential solution to reduce the incidence of this disease.
The Main Cause of Oropharyngeal Cancer
Oropharyngeal cancer, which affects the area of the tonsils and back of the throat, has become more common than cervical cancer in the US and the UK.
The main cause of this cancer is the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is also the main cause of cancer of the cervix.
Sexual transmission of HPV is the main risk factor for oropharyngeal cancer. Particularly for those with multiple lifetime sexual partners, including oral sex.
Prevalence of Oral Sex
Behavioural trend studies show that oral sex is very prevalent in some countries.
In a study conducted on almost 1,000 people having tonsillectomy for non-cancer reasons in the UK, 80% of adults reported practising oral sex at some point in their lives. However, only a small number of those people develop oropharyngeal cancer.
Why Do Some Develop Oropharyngeal Cancer?
The prevailing theory is that most of us catch HPV infections and are able to clear them completely. However, a small number of people are not able to get rid of the infection. maybe due to a defect in a particular aspect of their immune system.
In those patients, the virus is able to replicate continuously. Over time, it integrates at random positions into the host’s DNA. Some of which can cause the host cells to become cancerous.
HPV Vaccination and Prevention
Many countries have implemented HPV vaccination for young girls to prevent cervical cancer. There is now increasing evidence that it may also be effective in preventing HPV infection in the mouth.
Boys should have the HPV vaccine too, and several countries, including the UK, Australia and the US, have extended their national recommendations for HPV vaccination to include young boys — called a gender-neutral vaccination policy.
Challenges in HPV Vaccination
Opposition to HPV vaccination and the pandemic have contributed to challenges in achieving universal vaccination coverage among some populations.
Also, the pandemic has made it difficult to reach young people at schools and increased vaccine hesitancy.
Oral Sex: The Leading Risk Factor for Throat Cancer
Basically, oral sex is the primary risk for oropharyngeal cancer. And an HPV vaccination aims to prevent it.
However, challenges exist in achieving high vaccine coverage, and the coronavirus pandemic has further complicated the situation.
Despite the complexity of population behaviour, promoting awareness and education and encouraging vaccination is crucial to reducing throat cancer incidence.
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