Oral Sex Shown to Be Linked to Mouth Cancer
February 26, 2004
On Wednesday, New Scientist magazine reported that oral sex can cause oral cancer, although the risk is small. Citing a study by researchers working for the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, the article said that patients with oral cancer containing a strain of human papillomavirus (HPV) known as HPV 16 were three times more likely to report having oral sex than those without HPV 16.
The IARC scientists studied more than 1,600 patients from Europe, Canada, Australia, Cuba and the Sudan who had oral cancer and more than 1,700 people without oral cancer. They found that while the risk is small and oral cancer is more likely to result from heavy drinking and smoking, HPV, which is also linked to cervical cancer, can be associated with tumors in the mouth. Heavy use of alcohol and cigarettes is estimated to cause 75-90 percent of oral cancer, and the combination of tobacco smoke and alcohol is thought to produce high levels of cancer-causing agents.
"The researchers think both cunnilingus and fellatio can infect people's mouths," the magazine reported. Raphael Viscidi, a virologist who worked on the study, said, "This is a major study in terms of size. I think this will convince people."
Scientists are currently working on vaccines to prevent cervical cancer, which also might be effective against oral cancer, the magazine reported. The article, "Oral Sex Linked to Mouth Cancer," appeared in New Scientist (02.28.04: P.10). The initial report, "Human Papillomavirus and Oral Cancer: The International Agency for Research on Cancer Multicenter Study," appeared in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (2003;95:1772-1783).
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.