It is natural to be concerned whether kissing, where one partner has cancer of the mouth or throat, can pass HPV on to the other person. Oral cancer has been found to be predominately caused by oral HPV, the CDC says.
In fact, three out of four cases of oropharyngeal cancer are associated with HPV, according to a 2011 report.
A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology has shown that kissing someone with oropharyngeal cancer caused by HPV does not increase the likelihood that that oral HPV can be passed to the other person.
Couples can kiss as much as they want.
HPV is a sexually transmitted virus. Approximately 79 million Americans are currently infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It is estimated that in 90 percent of people, the virus “clears” in one to two years, so does not go on to cause other health related problems.
However, HPV is thought to cause 6,700 oropharyngeal cancers in men and 1,700 oropharyngeal, or throat, cancers in women and each year, reported CNN.
Tobacco, alcohol use and oral sex play a role in the development of cancer caused by the virus but there is no way to determine who will actually go on to develop cancer.
This the first large study to examine oral HPV infections among patients with HPV-caused oropharyngeal cancer and their partners. Researchers examined 164 individuals with oropharyngeal cancer and 93 of their spouses/partners.
Mouth-rinse samples were taken from all participants and DNA tests checked for 36 strains of HPV. Samples were taken at diagnosis and one year later.
Nine out of 10 of the oral cancer patients were men, and nearly all had performed oral sex in the past. The participants were between their 50s and early 60s, with a median age of 56.
“The prevalence of HPV among spouses and partners -- about 1.2 percent -- is comparable to the 1.3 percent prevalence of HPV among the general population of the same age, the researchers found,” reported HealthDay News.
This suggests that the HPV virus is not transmitted by saliva via kissing, or if it was, it was effectively cleared by the partner.
Experts were very pleased to hear these findings.
New York City oncologist Dr. Dennis Kraus told HealthDay News that older couples in long-term relationships have a tendency to become unsettled by the news that one of them has mouth and throat cancer caused by a sexually transmitted virus.
They feel concerned whether their grandchildren or even great-grandchildren may be at risk of being exposed.
While the news is reassuring, women should make sure to continue getting regular Pap smear exams, particularly if their partners are diagnosed with HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer. And male partners should have regular oral cancer evaluations if their female partner is diagnosed with HPV-related cervical cancer.
HPV-Linked Oral Cancers May Not Be 'Contagious'. HealthDay News. Retrieved Oct. 26, 2014.
Oral cancer linked to human papillomavirus (HPV) infection does not increase HPV infection risk among long-term partners. ScienceDaily. 1 May 2014. Retrieved Oct. 26, 2014.
Gypsyamber D'Souza et al. Oral Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection in HPV-Positive Patients With Oropharyngeal Cancer and Their Partners. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2014.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at http://contributor.yahoo.com/user/499625/michele_blacksberg.html
Edited by Jody Smith
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