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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Oral Cancer is more common in men and smokers

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is the main cause of a distinct form of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma that is increasing in prevalence a in the USA.

A recent study By Gillison et al. published in the Journal of American Medicine Association (JAMA) determined the prevalence of oral HPV infection in the USA.
Oral rinses from 5579 men and women aged 14 to 69 years were evaluated by polymerase chain reaction and type-specific hybridization.

The overall prevalence of oral HPV infection was about 7%. The prevalence was three times higher among men than among women as 10.1 % of men were infected orally, compared with 3.6 % of women.  Only 1% (projected estimate of 2 million Americans), were infected with HPV 16, the strain linked to throat cancers and many cases of cervical cancer. Since only less than 10,000 cases of throat cancer caused by HPV 16 are diagnosed every year, most individuals with the oral HPV virus infection do not develop cancer.  

The researchers found a high prevalence of oral HPV at 2 periods of life – between the age 30 to 34 years and 60 to 64 years.  Oral HPV infection was more common among those with a history of any type of sexual contact, increased with number of sexual partners and cigarettes smoked per day.

The increased risk associated with smoking may be due to the weakening of the immune system by smoking which may increase the susceptibility of smokers to infection. Furthermore smoking may also make transmission more likely by damaging the lining of the mouth.

Vaccination against HPV was shown to prevent cervical cancer.  Even though there is no proof yet that HPV vaccination prevent oral cavity oropharyngeal cancer, these findings underscore the importance of vaccination against HPV virus of both males and females.
For more on HPV click this link.