Oral Sex is Bittersweet
HPV a Factor in Rising Oral Cancer Rates in Women
Many girls would welcome an excuse to avoid oral sex (giving it, that is)--but this one isn't cause for celebration. Rising oral cancer rates in women are being linked to HPV. CNN Health presents the story of Pat Folsum, whose dentist noticed a lesion inside of her mouth. It was cancer and early detection saved her life.
Ten years ago, oral cancer was a man's cancer, but today women have dramatically caught up (10 years ago the ratio of men to women with oral cancer was 6:1; it's now 2:1). The increasing number of women who drink and smoke excessively is partially to blame, but so is HPV--specifically, HPV version 16. According to our expert, Denver Ob/Gyn Dr. Mandi Beman, "There are hundreds of strains (versions) of HPV that have been identified," and while "most strains of HPV are harmless, there are some that may put you at risk for warts or various types of cancer. HPV version 16 is one strain of HPV that has been identified as high-risk, meaning it has the potential to lead to cancer."
"How would we get HPV in our mouths?," you might ask. The answer: oral sex. The mouth is moist and dark, an ideal place for the virus to flourish. According to the CDC, condom use can lower your risk of getting HPV, but doesn't totally eliminate it. That's because HPV spreads through skin-to-skin contact and condoms don't cover the entire genital area that could be infected with the virus.
So don't freak out, but do stick to your routine dental visits, get any unusual sores checked out ASAP, look into getting an HPV vaccine and remember that oral sex isn't just fun and games.