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Oral Sex Shown to Be Linked to Mouth Cancer

LONDON – Although the risk is small and it is more likely to result from heavy drinking and smoking, scientists have uncovered evidence that oral sex can cause mouth cancer.

Researchers had suspected that a sexually transmitted infection that is linked to cervical cancer could also be associated with tumors in the mouth.

Now a study by researchers working for the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France seems to have confirmed it.

“Oral sex can lead to oral tumors,” New Scientist magazine said Wednesday, referring to the latest research.

The scientists studied more than 1,600 patients from Europe, Canada, Australia, Cuba and the Sudan with oral cancer and more than 1,700 healthy people.

They found that patients with oral cancer containing a strain of the human papilloma virus (HPV) known as HPV16 were three times more likely to report having had oral sex than those without the virus strain.

“The researchers think both cunnilingus and fellatio can infect people’s mouths,” the magazine added.

Raphael Viscidi, a virologist who worked on the research, believes the findings substantiate the link between HPV and oral cancer.

“This is a major study in terms of size,” he said. “I think this will convince people.”

High consumptions of alcohol and cigarettes are estimated to cause 75-90 percent of all cases of oral cancer. The combination of tobacco smoke and alcohol are thought to produce high levels of cancer causing agents.

Scientists are currently working on vaccines to prevent cervical cancer, which is more common, but they might also be effective against oral cancer.

“It is thought the vaccines would prevent oral infections as well,” the magazine added.


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