A study published online by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that an estimated 7 percent of American teens and adults carry the human papillomavirus (HPV) in their mouths.
The study may lead health experts towards understanding the increasing trend of incidence of mouth and throat cancer for nearly 25 years. The evidence also shows that oral sex practices play a major role in transmitting the virus.
Dr. Maura L. Gillison of the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, lead author of the study, shared: “There is a strong association for sexual behavior, and that has important implications for public health officials who teach sexual education.”
Oral sex is generally deemed as a safer alternative to sexual intercourse, despite the fact that herpes, HIV, and other diseases may also be transmitted when engaging in it. According to a survey released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last year, 90 percent of adults, 27 percent of 15-year-old boys, and 23 percent of 15-year-old girls have had oral sex.
Fred Wyand, director of the American Social Health Association HPV Resource Center, shared: “I don’t think people think of oral sex in the same way they do with traditional intercourse… Sometimes younger people engage in oral sex so they don’t have to worry about pregnancy. They may not even make the link between oral sex and STDs.”
This behavior, researchers suspect, may have led to the transmission of HPV through the mouth over the last decade, resulting in oral cancers.