Rise in Some Head and Neck Cancers Tied to Oral Sex

January 28, 2011

US News & World Report

There's an uptick in the incidence of certain head and neck cancers among middle-aged Americans. Researchers link the trend to a rise in the popularity of oral sex over the past few decades. Experts say HPV is a major trigger for these cancers. The overall incidence of head and neck cancers is down, largely because fewer people are smoking. But the incidence of cancers of the tonsil and base of the tongue have been growing. And those are the ones that are more likely to test positive for HPV. Changes in sexual practices over they years may be on reason that doctors are seeing more cases. "The thought would be that Baby Boomers - the 60s and 70s generation -- probably had more freedom in sexual relationships in general, including oral sex," said Bert W. O'Malley, Jr., MD, co-director, Penn's Head and Neck Cancer Center, in an interview for US News & World Report. Fortunately, Dr. O'Malley says HPV-related head and neck cancers are more treatable than those linked to smoking/drinking. Read More