A worrisome trend of increasing incidences of head and neck cancer even among young people in the US have led to the conclusion that the common practice of oral sex could be the cause.
The human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause these cancers travels from the genitals to the mouth and larynx. "It seems like a pretty good link that more sexual activity, particularly oral sex, is associated with increased HPV infection," said Dr. Greg Hartig, professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison.
A study that was reported in a 2007 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine found that those who had six or more oral sex partners in their life had a risk 3.4 times higher for oropharyngeal cancer.
Dr. Elizabeth Whelan comments, "Ninety-five percent of Americans have no knowledge of this risk. In fact, most teenagers believe that oral sex is not sex, and that it's fine and is without consequences. It's a relationship that people don't want to accept. There are emotional barriers to admitting this."
Although there is a vaccine offering protection against HPV it stands to reason that a re-evaluation of the practice of oral sex is long overdue.