We’ve mentioned before that oral sex had become a leading cause of oral cancer among men. The evil virus known as HPV, or the human papillomavirus, which is the main cause of cervical cancer in women, is, according to the Daily News, now leading to “epidemic proportions” of oral cancer in the U.S. among “mostly white, male, non-smokers in their late 30s and early 40s.” This means that HPV via oral sex is causing more oral cancer in guys than either smoking or drinking. HPV is evil, indeed.
The spike is greatest among men who’ve had more than five or six sexual partners, which is, let’s be honest, a large percentage of the global single population. Women can also get the virus from men, though the chances are lower through oral sex.
While the slut-shamers (be they male or female) may jump on this as a chance to say, if you’re promiscuous, you will get cancer, that is not true. (Nor does 5 or 6 partners equal promiscuous, unless it’s, say, all in one day.) Clearly, cancer sucks. But the surprisingly bright side about this is that suddenly HPV is less of a “dirty secret” that only affects women, that women are supposed to keep quiet and feel ashamed about. In fact, “nearly all sexually active Americans will come in contact with HPV, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.” Time we started talking about it.
FYI: HPV is passed through skin-to-skin contact, including oral sex, “regular” sex, and even “deep French kissing.”
If you’re feeling freaked by this news, listen to the doctors, who acknowledge that condoms, dental dams, and limiting your partners could reduce risk, but may not be appealing, nor is a guarantee. And, at the end of the day…
“This is not a call to stop having oral sex,” said Dr. Mark D. DeLacure, a head and neck surgeon at NYU’s Langone Medical Center. “People have to continue living their lives; however, we make the best choices when we know all the risks.”
Oral cancer from HPV has an 85 to 90 percent survival rate. We’re hoping that the widespread nature of the virus in men will lead to more screenings and early prevention for all, instead of merely after-the-fact treatment.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 18, 2011