THURSDAY, Aug. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Two-thirds of Americans aged 15 to 24 have engaged in oral sex, according to a broad new survey of young people's sexual habits.
The data, published Aug. 16 in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Health Statistics Reports, also reveals that about one-quarter of young people try oral sex before they engage in intercourse.
"I don't think these numbers are surprising, but I do think that it's important that this data has been captured at all, because it's really important to have, and has for a long time been a fuzzy area in our understanding of sexual behavior," said one expert, Dr. Christopher Hurt, A clinical assistant professor in the division of infectious disease at the University of North Carolina.
He said the findings are also valuable because too many people of all ages mistakenly believe that oral sex is "risk-free."
"That's not the case," Hurt said. "Studies looking, for example, at patients visiting STD [sexually transmitted disease] clinics have shown that 5 to 10 percent have gonorrhea in the throat. And it's often asymptomatic and can be transmitted through oral sex."
Gonorrhea is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, and a report released last week by the CDC noted that certain strains are resistant to all but one such drug. Oral sex can also raise risks for infection with chlamydia, herpes and syphilis, the CDC noted.
Oral sex is also increasingly linked to transmission of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which may be linked to cancers of the throat and oral cavity, in addition to cervical cancer, experts say.
While the odds of contracting any sexually transmitted disease from oral sex remain lower than that for unprotected intercourse, the CDC has stated that "numerous studies have demonstrated that oral sex can result in the transmission of HIV and other sexua
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