A prolonged sore throat once was considered a cancer worry mainly for smokers and drinkers. Today there's another risk: A sexually transmitted virus is fueling a rise in oral cancer.
HPV is best known for causing cervical cancer. But it can cause cancer in the upper throat, too, and a new study says HPV-positive tumors now account for a majority of cases of oropharyngeal cancer.
If that trend continues, that type of oral cancer will surpass cervical cancer as the main HPV-related cancer within the decade, Ohio State and National Cancer Institute researchers reported Monday.
The risk is greatest and rising among men, researchers reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, raising the question of whether a vaccine given to girls to protect against cervical cancer also might protect against oral HPV.
HPV vaccination is approved for boys to prevent genital warts and anal cancer caused by human papillomavirus. But protection against oral HPV hasn't been studied in either gender, says Dr. Maura Gillison, senior author of the new research.
There are nearly 10,000 new cases of oropharyngeal cancer a year.