There are a lot of myths around sex and health, and one question that is asked quite often is whether it is possible to get cancer from oral sex.
Interestingly, although you can’t catch cancer from an STI, evidence does suggest that there is a link between some types of oral cancer and the common human papilloma virus which can exist in the throat and mouth.
In 2011, around 5,400 cases of oral cancer were diagnosed in Britain, and clinics for STI testing in London routinely see HPV.
Cancer risk factors
There are many risk factors, which include chewing or smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol. However, a growing body of research suggests that HPV is also a primary factor. Between a quarter and a third of throat cancer cases are believed to be linked to HPV.
It is important to know that if a person has oral cancer and the HPV virus at the same time, it doesn’t mean that the virus led to the cancer.
How do you get HPV in the first place?
HPV is nearly always transmitted by sexual activity. There are over 100 types of the virus and around 15 of these are linked with cancer. Oral sex is believed to be the primary route, although high-risk HPV strains for cancer are also transmitted through vaginal and anal sex. These same virus strains are also linked with other cancers.
As HPV is so common, around 9 out of 10 sexually active people will have been exposed to at least one of the genital HPV strains by the time they are 25 years old. Only two to three percent of sexually active 25-year-olds will develop genital warts that are visible. So, this means that the vast majority of us will have been infected with HPV at some point without realising it. Remember that safe sex is always the best way to avoid getting STIs of any kind and regular testing is recommended https://www.checkurself.org.uk/order-a-test-kit/.
In conclusion, HPV doesn’t cause cancer, but it can lead to changes in the cells that it infects and these can later become cancerous, However, it is important to remember that very few people with the HPV virus will go on to develop cancer. In fact, 9 out of 10 cases are cleared naturally in the body within just two years.