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Tobacco Use Connected to Increased Risk of Oral HPV

By HERWriter
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Tobacco Use is Connected to Increased Risk of Oral HPV BONZAMI Emmanuelle/PhotoSpin

Tobacco use has been associated with an increased risk of oral HPV-16, a virus linked to oral and throat cancers. People who used tobacco in any form tested positive more often than those who had not used or quit the use of tobacco, a study by Johns Hopkins University found.

Based on blood tests, the risk grew by 30 percent for every three cigarettes a person smoked.

“We know from other research that most people who have HPV clear that infection after about a year,” Gypsyamber D’Souza, one of the senior researchers, said to Reuters.

Certain groups of people seem to be more susceptible to getting this infection or have trouble fighting that virus off, she continued. Tobacco users may be one of those groups.

The researchers reviewed the data of 6,887 men and women aged 14-69 years from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Almost 30 percent, or 2,012 of these men and women were current tobacco users, mostly cigarette smokers.

One percent, or 63 participants, tested positive for oral HPV-16.

“Oral HPV-16 prevalence was greater in current tobacco users (2.0 percent) compared with never or former tobacco users (0.6 percent),” according to Science Daily.

The researchers used self-reported information about smoking history as well as other data about alcohol or marijuana use, race, education and number of oral sex partners.

The tobacco users were more likely than non-users to be male, younger, less educated and have a higher number of oral sexual partners.

At the same time, the researchers did not rely on self-reported data alone to determine how smoking frequency affected HPV-16 levels found.

They tested for blood levels of cotinine, a by-product of tobacco use, and found an amount equal to three cigarettes a day increased the risk of infection by 31 percent, according to the study.

“This year alone, about 37,000 Americans, mostly men, will get mouth or throat cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). About 7,300 will die from these cancers,” reported WebMD.

In the United States, the incidence of these types of cancer has risen 225 percent over the last 20 years. Over 80 percent are related to HPV-16, which is transmitted via oral sex.

The researchers were careful to note that though the participants tested positive for HPV-16 that does not mean they will go on to develop oral cancer nor are they saying that using tobacco causes people to have HPV-16 infections.

What they are saying is that there appears to be an association regarding tobacco use that is significant enough to continue monitoring and studying.

Researchers found that even when they controlled for risky sexual behavior, which has often been viewed as contributing to the increased rate of oral HPV, there still was an increased risk between tobacco use and HPV-16 infections.


Tobacco Tied to Higher Risk of Oral HPV Infection. WebMD. Retrieved Oct. 11, 2014.

Smokers at higher risk for oral HPV: study. Reuters Health. Retrieved Oct. 11, 2014.

Tobacco use associated with increased risk of oral HPV-16 infection. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 11, 2014.

Fakhry, Carole MD, MPH et. al. Tobacco Use and Oral HPV-16 Infection. AMA. 2014;312(14):1465-1467. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.13183.

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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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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