Oral Cancer Risk Raised by Oral Sex

By Bionerd (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Medical researchers believe oral sex is the main way the human papilloma virus winds up in a person’s mouth. Some strains of the virus are responsible for causing cervical cancer in women and it effects the skin and mucous membranes in the body. HPV causes cellular abnormalities and more than 500,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with oral cancers every year.

Oral Sex and Oral Cancer

According to a new study, having oral sex can drastically increase the risk of a person developing head and neck cancers. The disease has been traditionally linked to smokers and heavy drinkers, usually happening when somebody gets older.

However, as recent cases of head and neck cancer have been on the rise, it has been linked to the human papilloma virus. It’s thought oral sex could be the primary way HPV winds up in a person’s mouth.
This group of viruses affects the skin and moist membranes of the body and this includes the cervix, mouth, anus and throat.

HPV-16 is a well-known cause of oropharyngeal tumors, which affect the middle part of the throat, including the soft palate, located at the base of the tongue and tonsils.

While the HPV virus doesn’t directly trigger cancer, it may cause changes in the cells it has infected and these can become cancerous. Men are two times more likely than a woman to develop oropharyngeal cancer, because performing cunnilingus is riskier than fellatio.

The Study

In the new study published in the journal JAMA Oncology it was shown that HPV-16s presence in the mouth was responsible for the development of oropharyngeal cancer. The new study follows a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, which proved that people infected with HPV were 32 times more likely to develop throat or oral cancers.

A previous study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, found the human papilloma virus now accounts for more cases of head and neck cancer than alcohol or tobacco use. HPV is spread by skin-to-skin contact, not only through sexual contact and it affects almost every person at some point in their life.

Most people’s immune systems are able to fight off the virus before it can do any real damage. However, sometimes the virus will take hold and it can lead to cancer of the cervix, penis, vagina, mouth or anus. There are about 15 stains of HPV that cause cervical cancer, and HPV-16 is the most common.

Conclusion of the Study:

Early detection of oral cancer will dramatically improve the chances someone has of survival. It is very important to be on the lookout for any signs or symptoms which could be an indicator of oral cancer. You should have your dentist check you for signs of oral cancer during your regular screening.

Previous research has shown that oral sex can increase the risk of mouth and throat cancers because it can spread HPV, so it is very important to remember the chances one takes through having oral sex.

Not smoking, cutting down on alcohol consumption and eating a healthful diet can all be good ways to cut the risk of cancers. Before you have sexual intercourse with any new partner it is good practice to have a physical checkup and STD screening, in order to avoid any infections and for the protection of both partners.


The information provided on Contracept.org is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her health professional. This information is solely for informational purposes and does not constitute the practice of medicine. We encourage all visitors to see a licensed physician or nutritionist if they have any concerns regarding health issues related to diet, personal image and any other topics discussed on this site. Neither the owners or employees of Contracept.org nor the author(s) of site content take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading this site. Always speak with your primary health care provider before engaging in any form of self treatment. Please see our Legal Statement for further information.