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Why is HPV-derived head and neck cancer becoming more prevalent?

Evelyn Minaya, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)
We are not exactly sure why we are seeing a rise in HPV-related oral cancers, but we do think it has to do with early exposure (i.e., early sexual encounters leading to perhaps more sexual partners). We all learned in medical school that the biggest risk factors for oral cancers are smoking and alcohol consumption, but unfortunately we are seeing a lot more patients without these risk factors getting oral cancers.
Eric M. Genden, MD
Ear, Nose & Throat (Otolaryngology)

The epidemiology of oral HPV infection is not well understood.  However, HPV has long been known to be present in the genital area and to be a significant cause of cervical, vulvar, penile, and anogenital carcinoma. It is believed that an increased number of people are engaging in oral sex practices and as a result are contracting HPV in the head and neck region, resulting in a higher rate of head and neck cancers.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.