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article imageLink between oral sex and cancer subject of documentary

By Lynn Curwin     Oct 17, 2010 in Health
The link between oral sex and throat and mouth cancer will be addressed in a BBC documentary to be presented by Jaime Winstone.
Rates of oral cancers have been rising, with many cases being caused by a sexually transmitted virus.
"The evidence suggests that people are more likely to have an HPV (human papilloma virus) -linked cancer if they have had multiple sexual partners and practised oral sex, whether they are men or women," The Guardian quoted Dr Lesley Walker, cancer information director at Cancer Research UK, as saying.
The rates of oral cancers are increasing every year, among both men and women.
Although HPV is better known as a major cause of cervical cancer, there has been increasing evidence of the link between the virus, which is passed from person to person during sexual activity, and oral cancer.
Researchers in Stockholm found that HPV caused 54 per cent of oral cancers from 1998-1999, but it caused 84 per cent of these cancers in 2006-2007.
"It looks like HPV-positive oral cancers are rising quite sharply in the past 10 years, while HPV-negative oral cancers went down. That is why we say it is an epidemic," Tina Dalianis, MD, PhD, professor of tumor biology at Sweden's Karolinska Institute, told WebMD.
Men are more likely to get oral cancer than are women, and people with HPV-related oral cancer tend to be younger than those with other types of oral cancer.
"I did one study to suggest it might be transmitted by deep kissing, but the risk was small -- so I think it is unlikely that HPV is transmitted by French kissing," Gypsyamber D'Souza, PhD, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told WebMD.
HPV is common. Cancer Research UK states that most people have the virus at some point, but it usually causes no symptoms and goes away without treatment.
Along with the mouth and throat, the virus can affect the cervix and the anus. A person could have genital HPV for years without any symptoms.
There are more than 100 strains of the virus and some can result in cell changes which could become cancerous. Other types can cause warts. Each strain is identified by a number.
The outcomes are worse for people who contract any type of oral cancer if they smoke.
The BBC3 documentary will air later this year.
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