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Oral Cancer

How Can HPV be Transfered?

04/09/2008

Question:

Hi, Can a woman contract HPV by having oral sex with a man? How big are the chances? If yes, can this woman transfer HPV to another man by kissing? How big are the chances? If yes, can this man transfer HPV to another woman by kissing? These types of HPV that can be transfered this way (if so), what can they cause - oral cancer or other problems as well? If this is all a plausible scenario of transfering HPV, it would seem that kissing anybody new could be a dangerous activity?How much does one need to worry now? Thanks!

Answer:

Many of your questions are out of my scope of practice and are probably best answered by an expert in the field of infectious diseases or gynecology who have better familiarity with the incidences and risks and methods of HPV transmission in adults (including whether there are any risks posed by kissing).

In general though, in adults, HPV is transmitted via sexual contact (including oral sex). The risk increases with increasing frequency of sexual contact, number or partners, as well as with lack of use of condoms, as well as likely in partners with known HPV. The prevalence of HPV in adults varies (5-10% of the population will test positive orally, and in some studies over 20% will test positive from the cervical region in women).

As you may know, cancer of the cervix in women is highly related to HPV infection, and we believe that the same is true for a subset of oral/throat cancers where there is also an association with HPV, especially the high risk types (HPV types 16 and 18). The overall prevalence of oral cancer however in the general population is very small in comparison to the prevalence of HPV so the overall chances of developing oral cancer even if you test positive for HPV is probably low.

For more information:

Go to the Oral Cancer health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Amit  Agrawal, MD Amit Agrawal, MD
Associate Professor of Otolaryngology
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University