HPV (Human Papillomavirus) has become a primary health concern within the last few decades. The concern comes in transmission as well as the wide array of health concerns that come with this virus.
What Is HPV?
HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that can cause genital warts as well as cervical cancer. Although this virus is primarily transmitted through sexual activity, it can also be passed from mother to newborn.
This disease was first found to be linked to cervical cancer, but more recent research has also linked it to vaginal, vulvar, anal, and penile cancers. All of these areas can be involved in sexual activity, which is why HPV continues to be classified as an STD (sexually transmitted disease) by the Centers for Disease Control.
Why Is HPV an Oral Health Concern?
In addition to causing cancers in and around the reproductive system, HPV has also been found to cause 70% of oropharynx cancer cases as well.
The oropharynx is the area of your head that is comprised of your soft palate, the back third of your tongue, tonsils, and the walls of your throat. These soft tissues are prone to oropharyngeal cancer, which is a form of oral cancer.
This link between this form of oral cancer and HPV is a fairly new discovery. Oral cancers have primarily been linked to tobacco usage, weak immune systems, and poor oral hygiene. Like the link between HPV and various cancers of the reproductive system, the link between oropharyngeal cancer and HPV is typically sexual in nature.
Preventing HPV and Related Cancers
Many incidents of cancer related to HPV are preventable. This is especially true of cervical cancer because HPV is present in 99% of cervical cancer samples. At this time, HPV is linked to approximately 70% of oropharyngeal, vulvar, and vaginal cancer cases as well as 60% of penile cancer cases.
There is a vaccine for HPV. It is recommended that both boys and girls receive this vaccine at around age 11 or 12. Though this vaccine is most effective when given before the age of 13, both males and females can be vaccinated up until age 26 to gain protection from this virus.
Incidents of HPV-related cancers and genital warts have dropped 71% among teenage girls since we started distributing this vaccine in 2006. The National HPV Prevention Roundtable estimates that 90% of new HPV-related cancer cases could be prevented by this vaccine.
Limiting sexual partners can also be a good preventative measure as contracting HPV is far more likely when engaging with multiple partners in a lifetime of sexual activity. It is also important to be familiar with a partner’s sexual history to avoid being exposed to harmful diseases like this one.
You Can Prevent HPV!
Talk to your doctor about the HPV vaccine as well as risk factors for this disease today.