HPV and Oral Cancer

This is a very informative video about the HPV link to oral cancers – definitely worth a watch.

In the June 2010 issue of AGD Impact,  an article by Eric K. Curtis, MA, MAGD called “Sex Ed: What Every Dentist Must Know About HPV,”  brought to attention some startling statistics regarding the human papillomavirus (HPV) and oral cancer.  HPV is a sexually transmitted disease.

One of those statistics, stemming from a report mentioned in the British Medical Journal (BMJ, March 2010) said that a U.S. study “found that approximately 60 to 80 percent of recent oral cancer biopsies were HPV positive – 10 years ago, only 40 percent of such biopsies were HPV-positive.  The BMJ report also suggested that HPV can be transmitted through oral sex.” 

Curtis seems to believe that this report “reinforces the trend that the BMJ warns: patients with HPV- positive OSCC’s (oral squamous cell carcinomas) are, on average, three to five years younger than patients with other OSCCs, and they are less likely to have a history of alcohol or tobacco use.”

So in the past, when doctors looked for risk factors for oral cancer, they might have considered smoking and alcohol use at the top of the list – now, having an understanding of the HPV link to oral cancer will help doctors address the numbers of oral cancer cases among the younger population.

Dentists should continue to follow this information and perform regular oral cancer screenings on all patients age 18 and over.  If you have not had an oral cancer screening, it’s time to ask your dentist for one. 

Oral cancer kills one person in the United States every hour of every day. For more information, please visit the Oral Cancer Foundation.

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