HPV is presenting itself as a new dominant cause of mouth cancer.
That’s according to Dr Vinod Joshi, founder of the Mouth CAncer Foundation.
In light of this, Dr Joshi has produced a new Human Papillomava Virus (HPV) leaflet launching for Mouth Cancer Awareness Week, which takes place 14-20 November to coincide with Mouth Cancer Action Month.
HPV is a very common virus group.
It affects skin and mucosal areas of the body and can be spread by skin contact.
Most infections are easily fought off by the body’s immune system and cause no symptoms.
The commonest types (HPV-6 and HPV-11) produce the warts often seen on the hands, arms, legs, genitals and other areas of the skin.
These are harmless, non cancerous, and easily treatable. However, some strains cause cancers.
Two types (HPV-16 and HPV-18) affect the genital tract and cause the majority of cervical cancers and some types of cancers of the vagina, vulva, penis, anus and also in the mouth.
Classically, mouth cancer occurs in smokers and drinkers with poor oral health and usually in people in their 50s or older.
But more recently, studies are showing that HPV-16 is also linked to cancer in the mouth in younger people with good oral health and no history of either smoking or drinking alcohol.
These HPV cancers are the fastest increasing type of mouth cancers presently.
It is not clear why, though recent analysis found that increased risk was associated with a history of increased number of lifetime sexual partners.
This fits with data for cervical cancer also.
HPV mouth cancers tend to appear in the back of the mouth area such as the back of the tongue, throat and tonsil area while non-HPV-related mouth cancers involve other parts of the mouth.
Fortunately, these HPV mouth cancers appear to be more responsive to treatment and the survival rate is much better than for non HPV mouth cancer.
To avoid mouth cancer, the charity suggests about half of all cancers can be prevented through healthy living and sensible lifestyle choices.
• Avoid tobacco
• Avoid or limit use of alcohol
• Eat health food, in moderation and maintain a healthy weight
• Exercise moderately most days
• Avoid casual sex and reduce the risk during sex by using condoms and barriers during oral sex.
For more information about mouth cancer, visit www.mouthcancerfoundation.org.