Associated Press (01.26.12) - Tuesday, January 31, 2012
The overall prevalence of oral human papillomavirus was 6.9
percent among American men and women ages 14-69, according to
an analysis of data from the National Health and Nutrition
Examination Survey 2009-10. Although more commonly linked with
cervical cancer, HPV also is increasingly recognized as a
major cause of oral cancers. Smoking and heavy drinking are
other key causes of oral cancers.
People in the survey provided a 30-second oral rinse and
gargle with mouthwash, which was tested for HPV. Only about 1
percent of the 5,579 people tested had HPV-16, the type most
robustly linked to oral cancer and also a cause of cervical
cancer. The study's overall oral HPV prevalence of 6.9 percent
would translate to about 16 million Americans infected, with
about 2 million having HPV-16.
The study "provides us some reassurance" that most people with
HPV will not get oral cancer, said Dr. Maura Gillison, lead
author and researcher with Ohio State University. Fewer than
15,000 Americans get HPV-linked oral cancer each year. Further
study is needed to determine whether HPV vaccines can protect
against oral HPV, said Gillison, who has consulted for HPV
vaccine makers Merck & Co. and GlaxoSmithKline. OSU, Merck,
and the National Cancer Institute helped pay for the study.
Oral HPV was more common in men than women (10 percent vs. 4
percent), smokers and people who had many sexual partners.
People ages 55-59 were most at risk. Sexual activity,
including oral sex, was a strong risk factor.
The lower prevalence for oral HPV compared with genital HPV
suggests the mouth might somehow be more resistant to
infection, Dr. Hans Schlecht, infectious-disease specialist at
Drexel University in Philadelphia, wrote in an accompanying
editorial. The study could further research on how some
infections lead to cancer and on detecting and treating HPV-
related oral lesions before they turn to cancer, he said.
The report, "Prevalence of Oral HPV Infection in the United
States, 2009-2010," and the editorial, "Hazard of Intimacy,"
were published online ahead of the print edition of Journal of
the American Medical Association
(2012;doi:10.1001/jama.2012.101 and doi:10.1001/jama.2012.117,