Sexually Transmitted HPV Linked to Certain Head & Neck Cancers
The types of cancer associated with HPV 16 occur mostly at the back (base) of the tongue, in the tonsils, and in the soft palate at the back of the throat, according to
In 2007, Roswell Park researchers began testing all head and neck tumors treated at the
There are more than 100 types of HPV — each identified by number — but only 70 have been described so far, explains Popat. Some HPV viruses, including 16 and 18, are transmitted sexually — not just through sexual intercourse, but through any skin-to-skin contact involving the mouth, vagina, vulva (the external female genitalia), penis, anus, or fingers.
HPV 16 and HPV 18 were previously identified as the cause of most cases of cervical cancer in the U.S. HPV has also been implicated in the development of some cancers of the vulva, vagina, anus, penis, and perineum (the area between the genitals and anus).
There is no cure for HPV, just as there is no cure for the common cold. In most people, an HPV infection will clear up on its own, but it can be passed on to other people during the infection period — just as with the common cold.
In some cases, the person may continue to be infected for decades without any symptoms. During that time, the infected person can infect others without knowing it. Over time, this “silent,” chronic HPV infection increases the risk of developing certain cancers.
In 2006, the FDA approved the use of Gardasil, a vaccine that protects against HPV 6, 11, 16 and 18, for females between the ages of 9 and 26, to help prevent cancers of the cervix, vulva, and vagina, as well as genital warts.
The FDA has not approved the vaccine for males. The issue of extending approval to males to protect against HPV related cancers is under review, with a decision expected in
Loree, Popat, and their RPCI colleagues see compelling evidence for extending the vaccine’s protection to boys. Says Popat, “The side effects of the vaccine are so small, and the potential benefits are great.” He notes that patients with throat cancer “have to undergo major treatment lasting several months, with an additional four to six months of recovery. Their ability to speak and swallow is affected. Generally, they do very well; however, it is a long, challenging road.”
Based on the evidence to date, Loree says that “with increased vaccination against HPV, you’ll see a decrease in cervical cancer and in throat cancers.” He says if everyone stopped smoking and using tobacco in any form, and also got vaccinated against HPV, “we could eliminate head and neck cancers, and I’d be out of business.”
The American Cancer Society estimates that 35,310 new cases of oral and oropharyngeal cancer are diagnosed every year — 25,310 of those in men — and 7,590 people, including 5,210 men, die of those cancers. Smoking, the use of chewing tobacco, and heavy alcohol use remain the leading causes of cancers of the head and neck.
Click here http://www.roswellpark.org/hpv to hear Roswell Park experts discuss the link between HPV and throat cancer.
The mission of Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. RPCI, founded in 1898, was one of the first cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and remains the only facility with this designation in Upstate New York. The Institute is a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers; maintains affiliate sites; and is a partner in national and international collaborative programs. For more information, visit RPCI’s website at http://www.roswellpark.org, call 1-877-ASK-RPCI (1-877-275-7724) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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SOURCE Roswell Park Cancer Institute