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HPV-Linked Oral Cancers on the Rise, Study Finds
Date:10/3/2011

rcent of samples taken in the 1980s tested positive for HPV16, compared with nearly 72 percent of those taken in the early 2000s, the study authors reported.

That means in the late 1980s, about 0.8 per 100,000 people had HPV-linked oropharyngeal cancer and by 2004, 2.6 per 100,000 had such a cancer. That's an increase of 225 percent, the authors explained.

During that same time, HPV-negative oral cancers -- most likely caused by tobacco or alcohol use -- declined by 50 percent, according to the study.

"By the year 2020, HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers will be the most common HPV-related cancer," said Chaturvedi. He noted that while a lot of progress has been made in preventing HPV-related cervical cancer, research in HPV-related oral cancers is currently lacking.

"HPV is a major cause of oropharyngeal cancers, and we need to understand the natural history of oral HPV infections and what the modifiable risk factors are. Clinical studies are also needed to see if specific targeted therapies can help oropharyngeal cancer patients," he said.

Dr. Jeffrey S. Weingarten, an otolaryngologist with the St. John Providence Health System in Southfield, Mich., agreed that further research needs to be done.

"It is possible that fewer HPV infections in women [due to the vaccine] will result in fewer infections in men," he said, adding that if the vaccine turns out to be effective in men, there may be an additional reduction in HPV infections.

Chaturvedi said that "it's anticipated that the [currently available HPV] vaccines would have a high efficacy in males," but that only clinical trials can answer this question for sure.

More information

Learn more about risk factors for oral cancers from the American Cancer Society.

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