According to recent studies, human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common virus transmitted sexually in America. This virus comes in over a hundred different groups, 40 of which have been spread through sex. Furthermore, these viruses can be transmitted through sexual contact to the mouth and throat, especially during oral sex.

It is estimated that at least 10 percent of adult men and 3.6 percent of adult women in America have oral HPV. The good thing is that HPV can be cleared within two years. However, this virus can persist and refuse to go away entirely in some people. One of the most common questions about HPV is whether it can cause oral cancer. Continue reading to learn more about human papillomavirus and oral cancer.

Does Human Papillomavirus Cause Oral Cancer?

Oral HPV infects different parts of your mouth, including your throat, and can expose you to the risk of developing oral cancer, especially the cancer of the oropharynx. Commonly referred to as oropharyngeal cancer, this type of cancer affects the back of your throat, including your tonsils and the base of your tongue. Research has shown that 70 percent of oropharyngeal cases in America are caused by oral HPV.

Sadly, HPV-related oral cancer can take years to develop. This prevents people from seeking medical intervention early enough before the disease advances. However, it’s still not yet clear if HPV alone causes oropharyngeal cancer or other factors like smoking or chewing tobacco that interact with the virus to cause this cancer. But it is also important to note that HPV doesn’t cause other cancers in the mouth, nose, lips, larynx, and salivary glands.

Symptoms of Oropharyngeal Cancer

Discovering the HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer is more challenging to discover than tobacco-related oral cancer because the symptoms of oropharyngeal aren’t so obvious, especially in its developmental stage. Even when the symptoms occur, they are usually very mild and painless. Therefore, it’s difficult for you and your medical doctor to detect the problem before it advances.

Nevertheless, some of the common symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer include chronic sore throat, hoarseness, earache, mysterious weight loss, and pain when swallowing. So, it’s essential to understand that this cancer manifests itself in the posterior parts (the oropharynx) of your mouth, such as the base of your tongue, the back of your throat, the tonsils, the tonsillar crypts, and the tonsillar pillars. If any of these symptoms persist for more than two weeks, you should seek a doctor’s advice.