Can oral sex give you cancer?

Incisive Bite

by Dr Sharon Robinson

Sunday, April 15, 2018

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THE human papilloma virus (HPV) is a dou ble-s tranded DNA virus that infects the epithelial cells of skin and mucosa. The moist epithelial surfaces (squamous cells) include all areas covered by skin and/or mucosa such as the mouth interior, throat, tongue, tonsils, vagina, cervix, vulva, penis (the urethra - the opening), and anus.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). HPV is a different virus from HIV and HSV (herpes). HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives.

The leading cause of oropharyngeal cancer is from HPV; a very small number of oral cavity cancers also occur from HPV. Experts suspect that changes in oral sex practices have a lot to do with it.

There are many different types of HPV. Some types can cause health problems, including genital warts and cancers. But there are vaccines that can stop these health problems from happening.

HPV16 is the version most responsible for oropharyngeal cancer and affects both males and females.

Risk factors

• Number of sexual partners: The greater your number of sexual partners, the more likely you are to contract a genital HPV infection; and when engaging in oral sex, this also holds true for oral infections.

Having sex with a partner who has had multiple sex partners also increases your risk.

• Weakened immune systems: People who have weakened immune systems are at greater risk of HPV infections. Immune systems can be weakened by HIV/AIDS or by immune system-suppressing drugs used after organ transplants.

Oral cancer signs and symptoms

This list considers both oral cancers from HPV and those from tobacco and alcohol.

• An ulcer or sore that does not heal within two to three weeks.

• A red, white, or black discoloration on the soft tissues in the mouth.

• Difficult or painful swallowing. A sensation that things are sticking in the throat when swallowing.

• A swollen but painless tonsil. When looking in the mouth, tonsils on both sides should be symmetrical in size.

• Pain when chewing.

• A persistent sore throat or hoarse voice.

• A swelling or lump in the mouth.

• A painless lump felt on the outside of the neck, which has been there for at least two weeks.

• A numb feeling in the mouth or lips.

• Constant coughing.

• An ear ache on one side (unilateral), which persists for more than a few days.

Lowering the risk

How can I lower my risk of giving or getting oral HPV?

At this time no studies have explored how oral HPV can be prevented. However, it is likely that condoms and dental dams, when used consistently and correctly, will lower the chances of giving or getting oral HPV during oral sex, since they serve as barriers, and can stop the transmission of HPV from person to person.

Pre-teens, teens, and young adults of both sexes can get vaccinated against HPV. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that young women get vaccinated against the virus to prevent cervical cancer. The CDC also recommends the vaccination for young men for two reasons: To help prevent its transmission to women, and to help prevent some of the 7,000 HPV-related cancers that occur in men each year.

We are offering...

Throughout the month of April, The Dental Place Cosmetix Spa, located at Sop #5 Winchester Business Centre, 15 Hope Road, Kingston 10, will be offering free dental exam and free oral cancer screening with dental cleaning. Schedule your appointment by calling 630-4710 or 441-4872.

Dr Sharon Robinson DDS has offices at the Dental Place Cosmetix Spa, located at shop #5, Winchester Business Centre, 15 Hope Road, Kingston 10. Dr Robinson is an adjunct lecturer at the University of Technology, Jamaica, School of Oral Health Sciences. She may be contacted at 630-4710. Like their Facebook page, Dental Place Cosmetix Spa for an opportunity to take advantage of weekly specials.

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