Sex: the thing that takes up the least amount of time and causes the most amount of trouble.
Can oral cancer be sexually transmitted?
In the last 10 years there has been an alarming increase in oral cancers. This is especially alarming as the increase is in young people with no history of smoking or alcohol abuse.
The increase seems to be related to the increase in the human papilloma virus(HPV). Not all HPV’s cause cancer, it seems to be restricted to16 18 31 and 45, these are the virus’ associated with cervical cancer. Do not confuse this with the virus which cause the visible warts on hands arms and legs. They are also not usually associated with genital warts.
It is thought that the increase in oral cancer is associated with the increasing incidence of oral sex. With the advent of AIDS and it being viewed as a “safe “sex alternative with the added benefit of no pregnancy.
Infection with this virus is virtually invisible and asymptomatic. The use of condoms or rubber dam doesn’t offer complete protection. It is also present in anal canals and anal cell carcinoma is also on the increase.
What can be done apart from education? The roll out of Gardasil vaccine, developed by Australian scientist Professor Ian Frazer, protects young women against the HPV 16 and 18. Having this vaccine free to school girls is a wonderful initiative. There is also a move to vaccinate young boys with Gardasil to further prevent spread of the oral cancer causing virus.
Not all the news is bad, the prognosis for these tumours is slightly better that those oral cancers caused by smoking and alcohol.
So educate and vaccinate ……