The Surprising Cause of Oral Cancer Increases

Featured Article, Healthy Living
on June 3, 2013

Michael Douglas recently discussed his oral cancer and the causes of the different forms of oral cancer with The Guardian. One of the suspected causes of oral cancer is HPV. It’s responsible for causing cervix, vagina, vulva, anus, penis, head and neck cancers. And now, studies show it’s also causing a growing number of oral cancers.

“It’s one of the epidemics of the 21st century,” said Otis Brawley of the American Cancer Society in an interview with USA Today. Even though smoking rates have lowered, HPV-related cancers have increased significantly in recent years. 

According to a January report from the American Cancer Society and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of oral tumors linked to HPV has increased from 16% of all oral cancers in 1984 to 1989, to 72% of these tumors from 2000 to 2004.

For reasons doctors don’t completely understand, oral HPV infections are much more common in men than women. To protect their future partners from cervical cancer, the CDC recommends boys be vaccinated against HPV at the age of 11 or 12. Animal tests suggest the vaccine will work in oral cancers, but it hasn’t been tested and it’s not likely to be tested in the future.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, more than 10% of men and 3.6% of women have a current oral HPV infection. To find out if you need the HPV vaccine, click here.