Science & Tech

Oral sex now more of a throat cancer risk than smoking or alcohol

Oral sex now more of a throat cancer risk than smoking or alcohol
Oral sex is fueling an 'epidemic' of throat cancer, doctor warns

Oral sex is causing a new worrying "epidemic" and is reportedly the leading risk factor above smoking and alcohol.

It comes after a study claims there to be a rapid increase in oropharyngeal cancer, which affects the area at the tonsils and back of the throat. Throat cancer has become more common than cervical cancer in the US and UK.

Dr Hisham Mehanna from the University of Birmingham highlighted the rise of throat cancer in the West.

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In a piece for The Conversation,Dr Mehanna said: "Over the past two decades, there has been a rapid increase in throat cancer in the West, to the extent that some have called it an epidemic.

"The prevailing theory is that most of us catch HPV infections and are able to clear them completely. However, a small number of people are not able to get rid of the infection, maybe due to a defect in a particular aspect of their immune system," he explained.

"In those patients, the virus is able to replicate continuously, and over time integrates at random positions into the host’s DNA, some of which can cause the host cells to become cancerous."

He went on to say that those with multiple sexual partners are at higher risk.

"Those with six or more lifetime oral-sex partners are 8.5 times more likely to develop oropharyngeal cancer than those who do not practice oral sex," he wrote.

Around 80 per cent of adults in the UK have practised oral sex at some point in their lives, according to the doctor's report.

"Yet, mercifully," he said, adding: "Only a small number of those people develop oropharyngeal cancer."

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