Researchers from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit have blamed the human papillomavirus (HPV) for the alarming increase in oropharyngeal cancer among young adults.
There has been a 60 percent increase from 1973 and 2009 in cancers of the tonsils, soft palate, base of tongue, and pharynx in people who are below the age of 45.
"The growing incidence in oropharyngeal cancer has been largely attributed to the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, which led to an increased transmission of high-risk HPV," says study lead author Farzan Siddiqui, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Head & Neck Radiation Therapy Program in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Henry Ford Hospital.
"We were interested in looking at people born during that time period and incidence of oropharyngeal cancer. Not only were we surprised to find a substantial increase in young adults with cancer of the tonsils and base of tongue, but also a wide deviation among Caucasians and African Americans with this cancer."
Recent medical research has pointed out that HPV exposure and infection elevates the risk of oropharyngeal squamous cell cancer. The two other risk factors for the disease are tobacco and alcohol use. Incidence of oropharyngeal cancer has gone up in recent years due to alterations in sexual practices.