We’re sorry. We’re so, so sorry. But yes, really, the headline of this story is true.
Let us explain.
Over the past twenty years there’s been a major boom in a type of throat cancer called oropharyngeal cancer (the tonsils and the back of the throat).
The main cause of this type of cancer? Human papillomavirus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted. You may be more aware of HPV being the main cause of cervical cancer, but it’s causing throat cancer too, explains Professor Hisham Mehanna in The Conversation.
The expert explains that when it comes to oropharyngeal cancer, the main risk factor is the number of lifetime sexual partners, especially when it comes to oral sex.
He writes: “Those with six or more lifetime oral-sex partners are 8.5 times more likely to develop oropharyngeal cancer than those who do not practise oral sex.”
Ahem, no comment.
However, research conducted by Professor Mehanna found that despite 80% of adults having partaken in oral sex at some point in their lives (sorry to the 20% missing out), only a teenie tiny number actually ended up with oropharyngeal cancer.
Why? Although there’s not a solid answer, it’s theorised that it’s because in most cases of catching HPV, our bodies are able to clear it themselves. When it’s not cleared by the body, that’s when things can become dangerous over time, Mehanna explains.
Fortunately in the UK, many girls will receive the HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, but given this new research about the risk of oropharyngeal cancer, Professor Mehanna suggests that boys should also receive the vaccine in a bid to prevent future cases.
So, should we panic about oral sex? No, but like with all sexual activity, there’s definitely ways to prevent the spread of viruses – practice safe sex!