-- Robert Preidt
THURSDAY, Sept. 26 (HealthDay News) -- The sexually transmitted
human papillomavirus (HPV) may be behind the sharp rise in cases of
throat and mouth cancers among young American adults, researchers
In a new study, investigators from Henry Ford Hospital in
Detroit analyzed U.S. government data and found that cancers of the
base of the tongue, tonsils, soft palate and pharynx among adults
aged 45 and younger increased 60 percent between 1973 and 2009.
Collectively, these cancers are called oropharyngeal cancer.
There was a 113 percent rise in the rate of these cancers among
whites, but a 52 percent decrease among blacks during the study
period. However, the five-year survival rate for these cancers
remains worse for blacks than for whites and other races, the study
HPV, which can cause genital and anal warts, is the most
commonly transmitted sexual infection in the United States.
Usually, the immune system clears the infection, but in some cases
the virus persists in the body. And persistent infection with
certain HPV strains can eventually lead to cancer -- with cervical
cancer the best known.
HPV can also invade the mouth during oral sex. Those infections
usually cause no symptoms, but a lingering infection with a
cancer-linked strain can lead to oropharyngeal cancer.
The topic was given celebrity status this summer when actor
Michael Douglas announced that his stage 4 throat cancer was the
result of an HPV infection that he got from oral sex.
In a hospital news release on the new research, study lead
author Dr. Farzan Siddiqui, director of the Head and Neck Radiation
Therapy Program in the department of radiation oncology, said, "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."
Siddiqui added. "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
Of the 1,600 patients in the study group, 90 percent were aged
36 to 44 and 73 percent were white. Fifty percent to 65 percent of
the patients had surgery to remove their tumors. Patients who had
both surgery and radiation had the highest five-year survival rate,
according to the report, which was scheduled for presentation at
the annual meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology
The data and conclusions of research presented at medical
meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a
Recent research has shown that HPV exposure and infection
increases the risk of oropharyngeal cancer independently of other
important risk factors for the disease, such as tobacco and alcohol
use, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about
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