The oral human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is more common in men than in women a new study shows, and sexual activity increases the risk of developing the infection.
Researchers from Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center used data from a cross sectional study as part of the 2009-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and assessed around 5,500 people aged 14 to 16.
All the participants provided skin samples for testing from their mouths, and were interviewed about their lifestyles and sexual history.
The results of the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), show that around 10 per cent of men had the oral HPV virus compared to 3.6 per cent of women.
They also found that the virus was most commonly detected among people aged 30 to 34 (7.3 per cent) and those aged 60 to 64 (11.4 per cent).
Smokers were also more likely to carry the HPV virus, along with former and current marijuana users.
The evidence also made clear that oral sex is the most common source of the oral HPV infection. Just 0.9 per cent of participants who had never had sex were infected with oral HPV, compared with 7.5 per cent of those who had.
Prevalence of HPV increased with lifetime or recent number of partners for any kind of sex, vaginal sex, or oral sex.
HPV is linked to the development of a type of cancer known as oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC), but little is known about how the infection is spread, or how common it is in the mouth.
HPV causes the majority of cervical cancers, as well as genital and anal and head and neck cancers.
Jessica Harris, health information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: "As we learn how common HPV infections in the mouth are, and how they are passed on, we can understand more about who is most at risk and how people can reduce the risk of HPV-related cancers.
"Although there isn't yet any evidence to show whether HPV vaccination is effective at preventing oral HPV infections, results like these are vital to help inform prevention programmes in the future."
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© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2012