Oral sex ‘can cause throat cancer’

Oral sex ‘can cause throat cancer’

Don’t drink, don’t smoke and don’t take drugs. And just when you thought life’s little instructions were cheerless enough, the “experts” have slapped another one at us – don’t have oral sex.

A study published in New Scientist found that those who have oral sex with multiple partners are 250 percent more likely to get throat cancer than those who do not have oral sex.

And “multiple”, to the team of researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, means more than five partners – in your lifetime.

Professor Andrew Grulich, from the National Centre for HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research (NCHECR), said a “substantial” proportion of cases of throat cancer were caused by oral infections with human papilloma virus (HPV).

“It’s the same virus that causes cancer of the cervix in women and cancer of the anus in gay men,” he said.

“Most people who become infected with HPV, commonly through oral sex, don’t develop any consequences whatever. It is not likely that it would lead to cancer.”

Those who have oral sex with multiple partners should still be aware of the risk, Kendra Sundquist, manager of the supportive care development unit at the Cancer Council Australia, said.

“HPV is in the population anyway, but there are two particular strains of it – the HPV 16 and in cervical cancer HPV 18 – that have been associated with the development of cancer,” she said.

“But I think you have to put it in perspective. There are about 4,000 cases of throat cancer a year in Australia, so it is not a high-risk cancer in terms of your risk of getting it, and the main causes for it are still smoking and alcohol.”

The study used 100 people with cancers of the tonsils or back of the throat. An additional 200 healthy people were studied for comparison.

All of the participants were quizzed as to their sexual history – providing such information as how many people they had engaged with in oral sex.

Sundquist said people of all sexual persuasions were at risk.

“Heterosexuals, homosexuals and lesbians – they all take part in sexual activities and the risk is the same,” she said.

The Baltimore researchers have encouraged anyone engaging in oral sex to use protection.

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