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Oral sex, multiple partners can increase head and neck cancer risk, finds study

It has also been previously reported that partners of women with cervical cancer or its history had an increased risk of developing oral cancer.

mumbai Updated: Oct 29, 2017 01:37 IST
Aayushi Pratap
Aayushi Pratap
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,oral sex,cancer

Sexual practices, mainly oral sex, and increased number of sexual partners, could increase risk of head and neck cancer caused by Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), said doctors from Tata Memorial Hospital in a review published in the British Medical Journal.

“Unprotected sexual behaviours play an important role in transmission of this virus. The global incidence of head and neck cancers is declining, but the incidence of HPV-related head and neck cancers has rapidly been increasing over the last few decades,” said the review.

A subset of head and neck cancer, called oropharynx, may be caused by the virus, said the review.

It has also been previously reported that partners of women with cervical cancer or its history had an increased risk of developing oral cancer.

The HPV-associated head and neck cancers are commonly seen in men, hence vaccination should start before puberty, ideally between 9 and 12 years of age for both males and females, added the review.

Dr Pankaj Chatervedi, professor and head and neck cancer surgeon at Tata Memorial Hospital said that 80% of the cases of oropharynx cancers in the west can be attributed to HPV, while in India, the figures are at 20%.

“Sexual liberation is more commonly seen in western countries and less so on the Indian subcontinent due to sexual convention,” says the review.

There is a need for awareness amongst the patients as well as healthcare professionals regarding sexual behaviours to prevent the spread of HPV infection and associated cancers, said Dr Chaturvedi.

“Doctors need to talk openly about this emerging threat, for changes to happen at policy level.”

First Published: Oct 29, 2017 01:37 IST