A common strain of human human papillomavirus has been shown to significantly increase your chances of getting head, neck, or throat cancer.
The link between human papillomavirus and certain types of cancer has been established for some time, but a recent study reveals that it may go deeper than scientists previously imagined. According to a report from UPI, researchers have found that the detection of an oral strain of HPV can significantly increase the risk of developing head, neck or throat cancer.
Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine have identified HPV-16, a common oral strain of the virus, as one of the main contributors to the increased risk of cancer. The finding suggests that there may still be links between HPV and cancer that have yet to be discovered.
HPV came under the spotlight when prior research linked it to cervical cancer in women and throat cancer in men. This led to the widespread recommendation for vaccination against the virus, which is typically administered during the teenage years before people are typically exposed.
Indeed, some strains of HPV are spread through sexual contact, but HPV-16 can be passed via oral contact like kissing. The link between this particular strain and different types of cancers stunned researchers, who worry that it may be difficult to quantify and mitigate the risk. Currently, a mouthwash sample is the best tool researchers have for detecting the virus and predicting cancer risk.
Scientists examined data from 96,650 people without cancer. The participants contributed mouthwash samples to the American Cancer Society Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort and the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial. The participants were followed up with for an average of 3.9 years.
The census found 132 people who had developed head or neck cancer during the follow-up timeframe. Those with traces of HPV-16 in their mouthwash samples were found to be 22 times more likely to develop oropharyngeal cancer. The study also suggested that beta- and gamma-HPVs, which typically affect the skin, could also lead to the development of certain cancers.
While further research will need to be done in order to establish a firmer link between HPV and cancer, the recent discovery suggests that the connection may be more serious than ever thought.
A press release from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine describing the details of the study can be found here.