You thought oral sex was safe? Think again! A recent study shows that this practice is a major risk factor for throat cancer.
The silent epidemic of throat cancer
Since the beginning of the 21st century, cases of throat cancer in the West have increased dramatically. This increase is so significant that experts have called it an “epidemic”. Specifically, it is cancer of the oropharynx (the area around the tonsils and back of the throat) that worries experts.
This type of cancer is primarily caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted virus. According to Professor Hisham Mehanna of the University of Birmingham's Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences, people who have multiple sexual partners and engage in oral sex are more likely to develop this cancer in their lifetime.
Oral sex: a real health risk?
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that individuals who have had six or more sexual partners with whom they have engaged in oral sex are 8.5 times more likely to develop oropharyngeal cancer than those who have not engaged in oral sex. In fact, oropharyngeal cancer is now more common than cervical cancer in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Professor Mehanna and colleagues at the University of Birmingham conducted a study showing that oral sex is widespread in some countries. Of nearly 1,000 non-cancer related tonsillectomy patients in the UK, 80% of the adults reported engaging in oral sex at some point in their lives.
HPV vaccination: a preventive solution
In an article published in The ConversationProfessor Hisham Mehanna explains that HPV vaccination has been implemented in several countries to prevent cervical cancer in young girls. In countries where vaccination coverage reaches 85%, boys are also protected by herd immunity.
However, vaccination does not guarantee individual protection in a context of hyperconnectivity where many sexual contacts may occur between people from countries with low vaccination coverage.
In India, the Narendra Modi government announced a plan in February 2023 to administer the HPV vaccine to girls aged 9-14 years in six states. This first phase of the vaccination campaign is expected to reach 255 million girls in the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Mizoram, Chhattisgargarh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, according to the Press Trust of India. India's health ministry plans to procure 160.2 million doses of the vaccine by 2026 and is preparing to launch an international tender.
Taking action to limit risks
In light of these alarming results, it is essential to raise awareness of the risks associated with oral sex and to promote HPV vaccination. Prevention also includes safer sex practices, such as the use of condoms or dental dams during oral sex.
Early detection of HPV and related cancers is also crucial to reducing risk. See your doctor regularly and let him or her know about your sexual practices so they can offer appropriate testing. Together we can fight this silent epidemic of throat cancer and protect our health.
My name is Maggie and I'm a writer for thesilverink.com, a website dedicated to news, culture and lifestyle. I have always been passionate about writing and I decided to make it my profession by becoming a web editor. I work on counterpoint.info and I mainly take care of the lifestyle section. I like to share my discoveries and my favorites with the readers, whether it's about fashion, beauty, decoration or gastronomy.