Human papillomavirus to blame for rise in oral cancer

A new study published by the Journal of Clinical Oncology suggests that the rise in oral cancer cases since the mid 80s could be the result of the human papillomavirus.

Researchers suspect that the rise of HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer can be attributed to an increase in the amount of people having oral sex, thus contracting the human papillomavirus orally.

Researchers estimate that 26 out of every 1 million Americans are effected by HPV-related oral cancers, and that 70% of all oropharyngeal cancer patients have HPV-related cancers.

“We used to think of oropharyngeal cancer as one cancer,” said senior author Dr. Maura Gillison, The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center in Columbus. “Now we know the disease is comprised of two biologically and epidemiologically distinct cancers. This new understanding will increasingly enable us to improve and better personalize care for patients with each form of the disease.”

On a relatively lighter note, Principal investigator Dr. Anil Chaturvedi of the National Cancer Institute notes that patients with HPV-positive oral cancers have better survival rates as opposed to cases related to tobacco and alcohol.

“The precise reasons for the survival benefits are not clear, but tumors in HPV-positive patients tend to have less genetic damage. Because of that, they are more responsive to cancer therapies like radiation treatment.”

Source: Journal of Clinical Oncology, CNN