Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is best known as a sexually transmitted infection. In fact, in the United States, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to increasing the risk for cervical cancer, HPV is a contributing factor in some cases of oral cancer. Each year an estimated 1,700 women and 6,700 men develop oropharyngeal cancer, which affects the tongue and throat.
The Oral Cancer Connection
There are more than 40 strains of HPV that live in the skin and mucosa. Of the strains of oral HPV, only one, called HPV16, increases the risk of oral cancer. One study reported that it takes about 15 years on average after exposure to HPV to develop into oral cancer. Thankfully, this makes it a relatively slow-growing form of cancer.
Scientists continue to study how HPV infections lead to oral cancer, so little is known about the progression of the disease. However, one recent study found that poor oral health, including gum disease and poor oral hygiene, is associated with the oral cancer risk. Thus, being vigilant about brushing and flossing your teeth regularly and staying committed to the recommended twice a year professional exams and cleanings, may reduce HPV-related oral cancer. The HPV vaccine can also protect against the oral form of the virus as well.
If you have any other questions about the connection between HPV and Oral Cancer, or are in need of an appointment, call our office at 918-455-0123!