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Having Oral Sex with Multiple Partners Could Lead to Head & Neck Cancer

A new research study in the Annals of Oncology find that men who have multiple oral sex partners are at a higher risk of getting head and neck cancer in their lifetime. 

Who are at the highest risk?  Smokers who have more than five oral sex partners are the ones who are most likely to develop the cancer, which is triggered by exposure to human papilloma virus, known as HPV.

The percentage of men who will develop oropharyngeal cancer - cancer of the middle part of the throat, is very low, only 0.7 percent, in their lifetimes.  The risk however is much lower for women, people who don't smoke, and who don't have more than five oral sex partners.

It has been reported that head and neck cancer is expected to overtake cervical cancer in the USA by 2020. Per an article in The Independent: Though there are more than 100 kinds of HPV, the danger focuses on three specific kinds: HPV 16 or 18, which trigger cervical cancer, and HPV 16 which triggers oropharyngeal cancer.

Doctors hope that proof of the increased risk caused by the two behaviors helps identify the people who are more at risk of developing head and neck cancer. That could be used to more reliably screen the people who are at risk, the researchers behind the study said.

For these reasons, it would be useful to be able to identify healthy people who are most at risk of developing oropharyngeal cancer in order to inform potential screening strategies, if effective screening tests could be developed,” said Amber D’Souza, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and one of the authors of the study.

Most people perform oral sex in their lives, and we found that oral infection with cancer-causing HPV was rare among women regardless of how many oral sex partners they had. Among men who did not smoke, cancer-causing oral HPV was rare among everyone who had less than five oral-sex partners, although the chances of having oral HPV infection did increase with number of oral sexual partners, and with smoking," she continued.

Read more about the study here