It seems that fellatio and cunnilingus can put people at a very significantly increased risk of developing throat cancer! An American research team has discovered that human papillomaviruses (or HPV), which are responsible for the majority of cases of cervical cancer, are also implicated in the development of oropharyngeal tumours. And this is true of people who had not smoked or drunk to excess, although these had been considered determining risk factors up until then.

Dr Maura Gillison and her team at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center (Maryland, United States) studied 100 patients of both sexes suffering from oropharyngeal cancer.

The result gives cause for concern. “Of these patients”, the authors point out, those whose infection by one or other strain of HPV” – whose oncogenic role is now well known, editor’s note – “was known, had a 32 times higher risk of developing oropharyngeal cancer than the general public”. This is far greater than the 3-fold increase associated with smoking, or the 2.5-fold increase associated with alcoholic intoxication. Another American study conducted by a team from Brown University confirms this finding.

Furthermore, among patients not known to have been infected by HPV, those who had oral sex with more than 6 partners over the course of their lifetime saw an 8.6 increase in their level of risk. This suggests that the risk is associated mainly with the number of partners.

However, on a more reassuring note, the author stresses that “Oropharyngeal cancer and the majority of people who have an oral papillomavirus infection do not (necessarily) go on to develop throat cancer”.

This post is also available in French, Arabic

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