Oral sex is the leading “risk factor” for oropharyngeal cancer, a specific kind of throat cancer that affects the tonsils and back of the throat, according to a British expert
In recent decades, there has been a “rapid increase” in throat cancer, possibly amounting to an “epidemic” in the West, Dr. Hisham Mehanna, a professor at the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences, wrote in The Conversation earlier this week.
While throat cancer is often considered to be a consequence of smoking, the main cause of oropharyngeal cancer is human papillomavirus (HPV) — which is also the main cause of cervical cancer. In both the US and the UK, oropharyngeal cancer is now more common than cancer of the cervix, he wrote.
Because HPV is sexually transmitted, “for oropharyngeal cancer, the main risk factor is the number of lifetime sexual partners, especially oral sex,” Mehanna said.
“Those with six or more lifetime oral-sex partners are 8.5 times more likely to develop oropharyngeal cancer than those who do not practice oral sex,” he added.