EVERYONE knows that smoking can cause lung cancer.
And that drinking alcohol can lead to liver cancer.
But far fewer people are aware of the growing link between oral sex and several serious cancers.
In fact, one study found less than a third of Americans know that HPV — a common sexually transmitted disease — can cause cancer.
Almost all sexually active women and men will contract HPV at some point, according to the NHS.
Transmission can occur through any form of skin-to-skin contact, including kissing and sex.
There are around 200 different strains of the pathogen, most of which are harmless.
But two strains — HPV16 and HPV18 — are responsible for most HPV-related cancers.
HPV-related cancers include vulva, vagina, penis, anus, head, and throat.
The new study, to be presented Tuesday at the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual meeting, examined the knowledge of more than 2,000 US adults about the virus’s link to cancer over a six-year period.
The research found that about two-thirds of those surveyed had heard of HPV.
And just 70.2 percent were aware of the link between the virus and cervical cancer, down a significant 7.4 percent from 77.6 percent in 2014.
“This was very shocking for us,” the study’s lead author, Professor Eric Adjei Boakye, of Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, US, told NBC News.
Now, only 30 percent knew it could cause throat or anal cancer.
Over the past two decades, there has been a rapid increase in a type of throat cancer known as oropharyngeal cancer in the West.
According to a separate study, people with six or more lifetime oral sex partners are 8.5 times more likely to develop oropharyngeal cancer than people who don’t practice oral sex.
The main cause of this disease is HPV.
Symptoms of mouth and throat cancer include:
- ulcers that don’t heal
- pain in the mouth
- red or white patches in the mouth or throat
- difficulties swallowing
- language problems
- a lump in the neck
- weight loss
- bad breath
Many common conditions can cause these symptoms, but it’s important to get them checked out by a doctor or dentist, according to Cancer Research UK.
In addition to the HPV virus, activities such as smoking, drinking alcohol and chewing tobacco can also increase your risk of developing mouth and throat cancer, according to Cancer Research UK.
Eating too few fruits and vegetables can have the same effect.
In the UK, girls are offered their first dose of HPV vaccine at eight years and the second up to two years later.
In 2019, boys were also enrolled in the program in hopes that HPV-related cancer cases would drop drastically in the future.
However, recent government figures showed that in 2021-2022, HPV vaccination rates in eighth-grade girls fell by 7 percent and in eighth-grade boys by 8.7 percent compared to the previous school year.
If a schoolchild misses their dose, you can speak to the school’s immunization team or a GP’s office to set up an appointment as soon as possible.