Changing sexual habits leads to startling rise in oral cancer in men

1
4399

There has been a startling rise in reported oral cancer cases in US, says a new study, in the past few years. New study shows oral cancer cases have significantly increased in the US in past years. FAIR Health, a non-profit organization, released data that shows 61 percent increase from 2011 to 2015 in oral cancer cases.

Source : “Oral Cancer: A Growing Health Concern,” FAIR Health October 2016
Source : “Oral Cancer: A Growing Health Concern,” FAIR Health October 2016

More than 21 billion privately-billed medical and dental claims were analyzed and it was found that men are three times more at risk to be diagnosed that women. Most of the patients suffered from either throat (malignant neoplasm of the nasopharynx, hypopharynx and oropharynx) or tongue cancer (malignant neoplasm of the tongue) and men account for 74% of them. This makes it the eight most common cancer in males, and if left untreated could lead to death. However, men and women had similar chances of developing gum cancer (malignant neoplasm of the gums) and an oral tumor that was benign but could become cancerous (neoplasm of uncertain behavior—oral).

Distribution of Oral cancer cases by age. Source : “Oral Cancer: A Growing Health Concern,” FAIR Health October 2016
Distribution of Oral cancer cases by age. Source : “Oral Cancer: A Growing Health Concern,” FAIR Health October 2016

According to American Cancer Society’s (ACS) prediction, 48,400 people will be diagnosed with the disease this year – of which about 10,000 people will die of it. Oral cancer generally occurs in people aged 46 years or more. However, the increase has been found to be higher in patients between 56 to 65 years.

“Oral cancer is a serious and growing public health problem,” FAIR Health President Robin Gelburd said in a press release. “We hope that our data help inform the national conversation on this topic.”

Early detection is critical


According to the ACS, patients who are diagnosed with oral cancer at the early stage are much more likely to be alive five years later than patients whose cancer has spread. Since early detection could be so crucial, the American Dental Association (ADA) advises dentists to perform oral cancer screenings during routine dental checkups, particularly in patients who use tobacco or consume alcohol heavily.

Correlation of Oral Cancer with Sex

Conventionally, tobacco smoking has been attributed to be the most common cause of oral cancer. Human papillomavirus (HPV) and excessive alcohol consumption have been recognized factors as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also found evidence suggesting association of oral sex to the increase in cancer cases in US. This study found that more teenagers and young adults now engage in oral sex than vaginal intercourse.

Men are more likely to be diagnosed with Oral Cancer. Source : “Oral Cancer: A Growing Health Concern,” FAIR Health October 2016
Men are more likely to be diagnosed with Oral Cancer. Source : “Oral Cancer: A Growing Health Concern,” FAIR Health October 2016

“However, young people, particularly those who have oral sex before their first vaginal intercourse, may still be placing themselves at risk of STIs or HIV before they are ever at risk of pregnancy,” CDC researchers said.

Gender appears to influence the risk of oral HPV infection when performing oral sex, according to another study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases. The difference in HPV prevalence in men was not explained by difference in number of sexual partners. However, it was explained by stronger associations between oral sexual behavior and infection among men. Thus, men are at a higher risk of contracting HPV infections than women.

One explanation for this difference could be due to the fact that women are more likely to mount a vigorous immune response to genital HPV infection, conferring subsequent protection from oral HPV infection.

“These differences in sexual behavior across age cohorts explain the differences that we see in oral HPV prevalence and in HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer across the generations and why the rate of this cancer is increasing,” Gypsyamber D’Souza, an associate professor in the Viral Oncology and Cancer Prevention and Control Program at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

HPV is an extremely common virus that has infected nearly 80 million, or one in four, people in the United States. Fortunately, the risk of contracting HPV can be greatly reduced by a vaccine. HPV has become a public health priority in recent years with dozens of countries recommending universal vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children get it at the age of 11 or 12, although they may get vaccinated as early as 9 years old.

Image source: PRNewsire