Oral Cancer, Head & Neck Cancer, in Men Associated With HPV (5/2008)

ORAL CANCER IN MEN ASSOCIATED WITH HPV. The sexually transmitted virus called HPV, or human papillomavirus, is well known to lead to cervical cancer in women. Now researchers are finding that many oral cancers in men are also associated with the virus. A clinical trial testing therapies for advanced tongue and tonsil cancers has found that more than 40 percent of the tumors in men were infected with HPV. If there is good news in the finding, it is that these HPV-associated tumors were among the most responsive to treatment. Of an estimated 28,900 cases of oral cancer a year, 18,550 are in men. HPV can enter the mouth during oral sex. A study published in February by researchers at Johns Hopkins estimated that 38 percent of oral squamous-cell cancers are HPV related, and suggested that their increasing number might be a result of changing sexual behaviors. The new study, published in two papers in The Journal of Clinical Oncology, included 51 men and 15 women with cancers of the tonsils or the base of tongue. The researchers were able to examine biopsies of 42 of the subjects before treatment. After tests for HPV, the researchers found that 27 tumors, nearly two-thirds, were positive for the virus. Of the 51 men, researchers found 22 with HPV. Other experts found the results interesting, but said it was unclear what they would mean for treatment. Finding the answer to that question is the next step, said to Dr. Maura L. Gillison, an associate professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins who was not involved in the study. Dr. Gillison added, “All of...

Sex and Oral / Throat Cancer (6/07)

 Oral sex has been linked to throat cancer in a new study by the New England Journal of Medicine [11May07]. Human papillomavirus (HPV), which can be transmitted during oral sex, is the main cause of oropharyngeal (throat) cancer, researchers found. The study is the first to prove the link. Researchers compared 100 men and women who were recently diagnosed with oral cancer with 200 similar people without the disease. They found that participants who reported having oral sex — fellatio or cunnilingus — with six or more partners were at the highest risk (8.6 times more) of develping throat cancer. "It's the human papillomavirus that drives the cancer," Dr. Maura Gillison, the lead author of the study, told The Globe and Mail. "Health care providers need to know that these cancers can occur in people that don't smoke or drink." Gillison [assist prof, oncology and epidemiology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD] said the more oral-sex partners an individual has, the greater the risk is of getting oral cancer. Researchers found that those with HPV infection were 32 times more likely to develop oropharyngeal cancer — regardless of the previously established risk factors of tobacco and alcohol use. While there is no screening test for the cancer, Gillison said the risk is relatively low. "People should be reassured that oropharyngeal cancer is relatively uncommon, and the overwhelming majority of people with an oral HPV infection probably will not get throat cancer," said Gillison. Gardasil, a vaccine that may protect against several strains of HPV, has not been specifically tested in relation to oral cancer. The Tories have set aside $300-million...