Study confirms link between HPV and oral cancer

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An American study has confirmed that there is a strong link between HPV and oral cancer.

In the past, risk factors, including a poor diet, smoking and regular drinking had been identified as major contributors to oral cancer, but researchers were baffled that rates of oral cancer were rising so rapidly, despite decreases in the number of people who smoke and positive lifestyle changes.

Young people are commonly affected by oral cancer; rates amongst young people have risen steeply in recent years and this was attributed to lifestyle habits; however, scientists started to investigate the causes of oral cancer more profoundly when people who did not have any of the risk factors and had a very healthy lifestyle started developing the disease.

Scientists in America have now confirmed that the Human Papilloma Virus, an umbrella term which represents more than 200 different strains of virus, plays a significant role in determining the risk of oral cancer. Researchers at two American universities found that up to 64 percent of cases of throat and neck cancers are caused by HPV. HPV is a very common virus; it is carried by half of the male population and is associated with gynaecological cancers, including cervical cancer.

Recently, the Department of Health introduced a vaccination scheme to protect young girls from cervical cancer; some experts and campaigners are now hoping to persuade the government to introduce a similar scheme to protect boys from cancers caused by HPV.

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