HPV or the human papilloma virus has been associated with cervical cancer in women but a new study says that the virus may be contributing to an increasing number of cases of head and neck cancers in men in Europe.
According to the new research, sexual behaviors like earlier sex, more partners and especially oral sex are contributing to a new epidemic of orpharyngeal squamous cell cancers, those of the throat, tonsils and base of the tongue.
"We expect in head and neck cancers that 85 percent are men and 15 percent are women," ABC News quoted Dr. John Deeken, a medical oncologist at Georgetown University as saying.
"But over the coming years that could become equal," he added.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, passed through genital contact through vaginal and anal sex. It can also be transmitted during oral sex and, more rarely, during deep kissing through saliva.
HPV can also cause cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis and anus, and there is some evidence it is associated with esophageal and lung cancers.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of Gardasil, the vaccine, for girls in 2006 and for boys for treatment of genital and anal warts in 2009.
However, doctors caution that there is a lack of public awareness of its role in preventing cancer.
Oral sex has become more commonplace; people have more sex partners and have sex earlier in life-all behaviors linked to HPV-related oral cancers, according to a study in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Emerging Infectious Diseases report.