There has been a great deal of discussion in recent years about the human papillomavirus (HPV), an infection that can be transmitted sexually. Much of the debate has centered on whether young people should be mandated to receive the vaccine that protects against this disease, and if the shot should just be given to young women, men or both.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, there are more than 70 different types of HPV infection. While some forms can cause cervical cancer, others, namely oral HPV, can lead to mouth cancer. Unfortunately, recent research has shown that the prevalence of this disease is rising, suggesting that greater prevention efforts are needed. Recently, scientists from the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center have found that 7 percent of American men and women between the ages of 14 and 69 have oral HPV, with more men reporting infections than women. Furthermore, the researchers found that the disease is primarily transmitted through sexual activity, and very rarely though casual nonsexual contact. The researchers also discovered that people who smoke and are heavy alcohol users are the most likely to have oral HPV. This could suggest that these individuals are engaging in risky behavior other than smoking and drinking, such as not practicing safer sex. The scientists said that the effectiveness of the HPV vaccine against oral HPV is unknown, so they cannot recommend getting the shot just yet.
However, the researchers stated that there is a large need for HPV prevention and to determine if the vaccine will effectively fight the oral form of this infection.
“Given [that] an analysis of U.S. cancer registry data recently projected that the number of HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers diagnosed each year will surpass that of invasive cervical cancers by the year 2020, perhaps such vaccine trials are warranted,” stated study authors.