HPV is a common infection, causing abnormal changes in the cervix plus cervical cancer.
Does this mean oral sex can lead to mouth cancer from HPV transmission?
“The human Papilloma virus, commonly referred to as HPV, is extremely prevalent and contagious,” says Karen Patrusky, a board certified OBGYN and F.A.C.O.G. in private practice for 20+ years.
“This is what we screen for on many Pap smears because it is this virus that can attack the cells of the cervix and cause abnormalities that can progress in certain instances into cervical cancer,” continues Dr. Petrusky.
“This same virus can also infect the mouth and throat, and once again, in rare instances increase risks for an oropharyngeal cancer [the area of the throat right behind the mouth].
“This virus is transmitted sexually, and that includes oral sex.”
Cancers of the Mouth
These include the following:
• Nasopharynx (connects the nose and throat)
• And of course, the mouth
You may already know that liquor and smoking are major risk factors for mouth and throat cancer.
But even if you neither drink nor smoke, an HPV infection in your mouth puts you at risk for oral or throat cancer.
For all age groups taken together, about 25% of mouth and 30% of throat malignancies are HPV related.
However, in younger adults alone, most throat cancers are HPV related.
HPV in the Mouth
This virus, unlike the flu, cannot be transmitted through inhaling or touching inanimate objects and then touching your face, though skin-to-skin contact with an infected person can cause warts. But the type of HPV that causes warts does not cause cancer.
HPV in the mouth likely got there from oral sex.
Cervical cancer cannot cause the human papilloma virus to travel to the mouth or throat and grow into a tumor.
HPV in the mouth from oral sex is not a guarantee you’ll get cancer. It’s only a heightened risk.
And if you do get cancer, it can take decades to develop via cellular mutation from the infection.
In fact, in the vast majority of HPV infections anywhere in the body, the body clears up the infection within two years.
But don’t get too smug about this statistic if you smoke. Smoking impairs the skin’s protective cells, weakening their defense against HPV.
Worried about HPV in your mouth?
If you don’t see or feel any symptoms, you should still get annual checkups by your general practitioner, and checkups twice a year by your dentist as part of your biannual dental exams.
Dentists, not just your GP, are trained to spot the suspicious signs in the mouth.
Very Suspicious Symptoms
• Patches on the tongue or lining of the mouth that are red or red and white.
• A persistent mouth ulcer or sore
• Pain in the throat upon swallowing
• A stuck feeling or “lump” in the throat
• Persistent cough
• Persistent hoarse voice
If you have any of these symptoms you should make an appointment with an ear, nose and throat physician — or see your primary care physician first if you need the referral.
Dr. Patrusky is the developer of Voila Intimate Mood Oil, a 100% organic, non-hormonal lubricant made from coconut oil infused with the purest natural herbal oils. All five formulas are vegan, cruelty-free and U.S. produced.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.