Mouth cancer: Can HPV cause mouth cancer? – symptoms to spot

In a controversial topic relating to mouth cancer, the HPV could be a cause for some mouth cancers. The actor Michael Douglas famously revealed he believed his cancer was caused by cunningligus in his youth. But could he be correct and if so, what are the symptoms you should look out for when it comes to mouth cancer caused by HPV?


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A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine revealed that the mouths of many men are infected with HPV, often contracted through cunnilingus. 

To determine just how common HPV is among men, a team of researchers from the University of Florida looked at data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey on adults aged between 18 to 69.

The researchers wanted to look at the prevalence of oral HPV infection and also how common it is for men and women to develop both an oral and genital infection of the virus.

It was determined that the risk for men developing mouth cancer through HPV is potentially serious.

Although HPV is more commonly associated with cervical cancer, the virus is most closely linked with oral cancer known as oropharyngeal squamous cell (OPSCC).

The National Cancer Institute estimates that roughly 70 percent of oropharyngeal stem from HPV type 16 infection, which is a high-risk strain.

The report determined that the higher risk strains of the virus were more commonly found in men than women with oral HPV.

What is HPV?

The NHS said: “HPV is the name of a very common group of viruses.

“They do not cause any problems in most people, but some types can cause genital warts or cancer.

“HPV affects the skin and there are more than 100 different types.

“Many types of HPV affect the mouth, throat or genital area.

“HPV has no symptoms, so you may not know if you have it.”


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Cancer Research UK said: “HPV infection also increases the risk of some types of mouth and throat cancer.

“Rates of mouth cancer, especially tongue and tonsil cancers, are increasing, particularly in people over 40.

“And the evidence suggests that the proportion of cases linked to HPV is rising.

Possible symptoms of HPV-positive cancer include swollen lymph nodes, earaches, swollen tongue, pain when swallowing, hoarseness, numbness inside the mouth, small lumps inside your mouth and around your neck or coughing up blood.

How to reduce the risk of HPV-linked cancers

“While the virus can spread through skin-to-skin contact, you cannot directly pass on cancer,” added Cancer Research UK. 

“No matter the sex of your partner, using a barrier protection method such as a condom reduces the risk of passing on HPV infections.

“But it isn’t completely effective.

“The HPV vaccine helps protect against cancer.

“Men who have sex with men can request the vaccine for free through sexual health and HIV clinics in the UK.”

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