EVERYONE knows that smoking can give you 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 major cancers.
In fact, one study revealed less than one third of Americans know that HPV – a common STI – can cause cancer.
Nearly all sexually active women and men become infected with HPV at some point, according to the NHS.
It can be spread through any form of skin-to-skin contact, including kissing and sex.
There are about 200 different strains of the disease, 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, which will be presented Tuesday at the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual meeting, monitored over 2000 US adults’ knowledge about the virus’s connection to cancer over a six year period.
The research revealed that about two-thirds of respondents had heard of HPV.
And only 70.2 per cent were aware of the link between the virus and cervical cancer, a significant 7.4 per cent drop from 77.6 per cent in 2014.
“That was very shocking for us,” said lead author of the study Professor Eric Adjei Boakye of the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, US told NBC News.
Meanwhile, only 30 per cent knew it could cause throat or anal cancers.
Over the past two decades, there has been a rapid increase in a specific type of throat cancer, called oropharyngeal cancer, in the west.
According to separate research, people with six or more lifetime oral sex partners are 8.5 times more likely to develop oropharyngeal cancer than those who do not practise oral sex.
The main cause of this disease is HPV.
Symptoms of mouth and oropharyngeal cancer include:
- Ulcers that don’t heal
- Pain in your mouth
- Red or white patches in your mouth or throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Speech problems
- A lump in your neck
- Weight loss
- Bad breath
Many common conditions can cause these symptoms, but it’s important to get them checked by a doctor or dentist, Cancer Research UK noted.
Aside from the HPV virus, activities like smoking, drinking alcohol and chewing tobacco can also increase someone’s risk of developing mouth and oropharyngeal cancer, Cancer Research UK said.
Not eating enough fruit and vegetables can have the same effect.
In the UK, girls are offered their first HPV jab dose in Year 8, and their second one up to two years later.
Boys were also added into the programme in 2019, in the hope that HPV-related cancer cases would fall dramatically in the future.
But recent government figures showed that HPV vaccine coverage decreased by 7 per cent in Year 8 girls and 8.7 per cent in year 8 boys in 2021 to 2022, when compared to the previous academic year.
If a school child misses their doses, you can speak to the school jab team or GP surgery to book as soon as possible.