Cases of oropharyngeal cancer linked to HPV have been on the rise in the US over the past few years.
According to the American Cancer Society, there has been a yearly increase of 1.3% in women and 2.8% in men between 2015 and 2019.
Oropharyngeal cancer commonly known as throat cancer or tonsil cancer refers to the development of malignant cells in the throat, oesophagus or tonsils.
According to the National Cancer Institute, symptoms can include sore throat, throat pain, difficulty swallowing and changes in voice.
The American Cancer Society estimates that about 54 000 Americans are diagnosed with throat cancer every year, while approximately 10 000 die from the disease annually.
Experts believe that oral sex may be the biggest factor in the rise of throat cancer in the US.
Dr Hisham Mehanna, a professor at the Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences at the University of Birmingham, has pointed out that there has been a “rapid increase” in oropharyngeal cancer over the past two decades.
He identified oral sex as the main risk factor for the disease.
In an article for The Conversation, Mehanna said individuals with six or more lifetime oral-sex partners were 8.5 times more likely to develop oropharyngeal cancer than those who did not practise oral sex.
While not all cases of oropharyngeal cancer are linked to HPV, this type of cancer can be caused by the virus, which is transmitted through sexual contact.
The virus can be contracted through vaginal, anal and oral sex, and it can increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer, including oropharyngeal cancer.
Younger generations seem particularly affected by the trend, as HPV, a sexually transmitted disease, becomes more common.
The African Cancer Institute notes that it is the most common cancer among men in Zimbabwe, the third biggest cancer among men in South Africa and sixth most common cancer in women.
To address the rising rates of throat cancer and oropharyngeal cancer linked to HPV, experts emphasise the importance of preventive measures such as safe sex practices, regular screenings and vaccination against HPV.
Early detection and treatment are also crucial in improving survival rates and reducing the negative impact of these diseases. By staying informed and proactive about our health, we can reduce our risk of developing throat cancer and help to combat this growing health problem.
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