Largest oral HPV study in England did not show what researchers expected
| Science Daily – Infection rates of high risk human papilloma virus (HR-HPV) oral infection in England are lower than expected, compared to previous US studies.
However, the research also strengthens evidence that smoking and sexual behavior are risk factors for oral HPV infection, which can lead to oropharyngeal (throat) cancer.
This timely study published in the British Medical Journal Open, led by Professor Hilary Powers, Dr. Vanessa Hearnden and Dr. Craig Murdoch at the University of Sheffield, and funded by the World Cancer Research Fund UK, coincides with the announcement of a new UK HPV vaccine programme for boys which aims to reduce the risk of HR-HPV related cancers.
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Rates of oropharyngeal cancers are increasing worldwide, attributable to an increase in the rate of oral infection with HR-HPV.
This new study of 700 men and women in Sheffield, which is the largest of its kind in England, looked for HR-HPV infection and also asked participants lifestyle questions relating to their sexual history and tobacco use.
Former smokers were significantly more likely to be HR-HPV positive compared with those that had never smoked. [This is likely because tobacco smoke robs mucous membranes in the mouth and throat of oxygen, making cells weak and more susceptible to infection. Ed.]
The study also found that participants with a greater number of sexual or oral sexual partners were more likely to be HR-HPV positive.
Dr. Vanessa Hearnden, from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Sheffield, said:
“Previous studies have been US-focused or in smaller UK studies in London or Scotland. This is the first study in the North of England and found lower rates of oral high-risk human papillomavirus infection.
“We fully support the newly announced HPV vaccination programme for boys which will reduce the risk of HPV related cancers including throat cancer in men and will also provide further prevention of cervical cancers through herd immunity … Read more.