Getting diagnosed with oral cancer that was caused by the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) can kill physical intimacy in long-term relationships. But new research suggests these couples can kiss as often and as deeply as they want without worry.
Results from a new study recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology said that long-term partners and spouses of patients with HPV-related oral cancer appear to have no increased risk of oral HPV infections.
The Human Oral Papillomavirus Transmission in Partners over Time (HOTSPOT), is the first large study to examine oral HPV infections among patients with HPV-caused oropharyngeal cancer (OPC) and their partners.
The study included 164 individuals with HPV-OPC and 93 long-term partners and spouses. The OPC patients were predominantly male, while the partners were mainly female. The median age of the OPC patients was 56 years.
Oral HPV DNA was collected first through a 30-second mouth rinse and gargle at diagnosis and then again one year later. The oral rinse samples were tested for 36 different subtypes of HPV, including HPV 16. HPV 16 is the type responsible for most HPV-OPC cases.
At the time of the study, all of the patients tested positive for HPV, and most of them tested positive for HPV DNA in their saliva. Researchers expected to see a higher incidence of HPV DNA in the saliva of their partners as well.
But surprisingly, the virus showed up in only 1.2 percent of the partners tested, which is comparable to the 1.3 occurrence rate in the general population at that age.
“These findings provide assurance that the prevalence of oral HPV infections is not increased among long-term partners and their risk of HPV-OPC remains low," lead study author Gypsyamber D'Souza, PhD, MPH, MS, an associate professor of Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health told ScienceDaily.com.
"Couples who have been together for several years have likely already shared whatever infections they have and no changes in their physical intimacy are needed."