Oral Sex and HPV: Population Based Indications

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Abstract

Human pappilloma virus (HPV) is well established in etiology of uterine cervical cancers, but its role in head and neck cancer is strongly suggested through many epidemiological and laboratory studies. Although HPV-16 induced oropharyngeal cancer is a distinct molecular entity, its role at other sub-sites (oral cavity, larynx, nasopharynx, hypopharynx) is less well established. Oral sex is supposedly the most commonly practiced unnatural sex across the globe and may prove to be a potential transmitting link between cancers of the uterine cervix and the oropharynx in males particularly in those 10–15% non-smokers. In India with the second largest population (higher population density than China) the oral sex is likely to be a common ‘recreation-tool’ amongst the majority (poor) and with the concurrent highly prevalent bad cervical/oral hygiene the HPV is likely to synergize other carcinogens. Hence in accordance (or coincidently), in India the cervical cancer happens to be the commonest cancer amongst females while oral/oropharyngeal cancer amongst males. Oral sex as a link between these two cancer types, can largely be argued considering a poor level of evidence in the existing literature. The modern world has even commercialized oral sex in the form of flavored condoms. The inadequate world literature currently is of a low level of evidence to conclude such a relationship because no such specific prospective study has been carried out and also due to wide (and unpredictable) variety of sexual practices, such a relationship can only be speculated. This article briefly reviews the existing literature on various modes and population based indications for HPV to be implicated in head and neck cancer with reference to oral sexual practice.