Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is often associated with genital warts and cervical cancer, but the virus can cause numerous other forms of cancer. Doctors who treat head and neck cancers are increasingly concerned that sexual encounters among young adults may be driving more oral cancers later in life.
“A third of head and neck cancers we see nowadays are HPV,” said Dr. David Brizel, an oncologist at Duke University who specializes in head and neck cancers.
Although few studies have been done to establish a direct cause and effect, public health officials cite oral sex as a means of infection in both men and women.
In recent months, several studies in both European and U.S. medical journals have noted a rise in head and neck cancers stemming from HPV infections.