HPV Key Facts
HPV & Cancer
HPV & Throat Cancer
HPV & Cervical Cancer
HPV & Other Cancers
HPV & Relationships
HPV & Cancer 2
Studies in the US show that HPV now causes most throat cancers. It is recommended that throat tumours be tested for HPV.
Smoking and alcohol can also cause throat cancer.
HPV is transmitted to your mouth by oral sex. It may also be possible to get oral HPV in other ways. An increased number of oral sex partners increases your chances of catching an oral HPV infection. If you find out that you have an oral HPV infection, it does not necessarily mean that your partner was/is unfaithful or has had a large number of sexual partners. Many people with throat HPV cancer have only had a few oral sex partners.
Genital HPV is so common that anyone who gives oral sex may be exposed to oral HPV. HPV statistics in the United States show that around 10% of men and 3.6% of women have HPV in their mouths at any given time. Most people will clear the HPV infection on their own within a year, but in some people the HPV infection persists.
Family and friends
Oral HPV is not casually transmitted by sharing drinks with people or kissing on cheeks. It isn’t known yet if open-mouth kissing can transmit HPV.
Partners of people with throat cancer
New sexual partners in the future
People with throat cancer, with HPV in their tumour, live longer on average than people without HPV (i.e. HPV-positive tumours usually respond well to therapy). However, people who smoke tobacco or have smoked for a long time in the past do not live as long, on average, as people who have never smoked. Current smokers are strongly encouraged to stop. Help is available.
The HPV vaccine offers best protection from HPV if given before becoming sexually active. For people who are already sexually active, the vaccine may still be of benefit as it will prevent you from getting new HPV infections from the HPV strains the vaccine covers. The vaccine will not help clear an infection that you already have.
The risk of HPV throat cancer may be slightly higher among partners of HPV throat cancer patients, but this cancer remains extremely rare among partners.