Oncogenic Oral HPV DNA Detected in 3.5 Percent of Adults

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"It is a rare cancer and for most healthy people the harms of screening for it would outweigh the benefits because of the problem of false positive test results and consequent anxiety", said co-author Carole Fakhry, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Department of Otolaryngology.

It is linked to growing numbers of cases being triggered by the human papillomavirus, passed on during oral sex.

The researchers detected oral HPV DNA in 3.5 percent of all 13,089 adults aged 20 to 69 years included in the study; the lifetime risk of oropharyngeal cancer was low at 37 per 10,000.

United States experts tested more than 13,000 adults for HPV. "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", lead author Dr Amber D'Souza, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health told the Daily Mail.

The rate of infection was highest, at 15 per cent, among men who smoked and had five or more oral sex partners.

Prevalence was 14.9 per cent among men who smoked and reported five or more lifetime oral sex partners, compared to less than half that - 7.3 per cent for men who reported five or more lifetime oral sexual partners but did not smoke.

Cancer Research UK said: "It's far more important to stop smoking and cut back on booze".

They used the numbers of oropharyngeal cancer cases and deaths from USA registries to predict the risk of cancer from oral HPV infection.

According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, over 70% of the OC's are caused from HPV type-16 infections, which is strain of the virus that is very high risk.

Men had higher prevalence of oncogenic oral HPV than women; prevalence increased with the number of lifetime oral sexual partners and tobacco use.

"Screening based upon oncogenic oral HPV detection would be challenging".

But the number of cases of oropharyngeal cancer is predicted to overtake cervical cancer by 2020, United States scientists warned.

Further research to explore oral HPV infection in young healthy men is now being conducted. "Current tests might identify who has an oral HPV, but do not predict future cancer risk well", she explained. Given early in life, it protects against cervical cancer and anal cancer, and most likely protects against head and neck cancer, too, he said. HPV16 also causes oropharyngeal cancer.

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