Canada Reporting Increased HPV-Related Cancers
Mouth and throat tumors caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) have risen sharply among men and could surpass the rate of HPV-induced cervical cancer in women according to the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS).
In this CCS report, the percentage of HPV-related mouth and throat cancers jumped 56% in males and just 17% in females between 1992 and 2012.
“This trend now represents about one-third of all HPV cancers in Canada, equal to the proportion of cervical cancer cases,” said Leah Smith, a Canadian Cancer Society epidemiologist.
The CCS says most sexually active men and women become infected with HPV at some point during their lifetime. Most people eliminate the virus in about two years. But in a small percent of those patients infected, the HPV persists, later causing various cancers.
The CCS forecasts 4,000 Canadian men and women will be diagnosed with an HPV-related cancer in 2016, including cervical, genital, and anal cancers. Moreover, about 1,200 patients will die as a result.
CCS research is increasingly pointing to "deep kissing" and oral sex as major culprits in HPV transmission. In a small proportion of those infected, mouth and throat cancers may develop years later.
Those cases could be sharply reduced if both girls and boys were immunized against the most dangerous strains of HPV before they become sexually active.
There are now three vaccines available in Canada that can protect against infection from up to nine different strains of HPV.
Girls aged 9 and older can receive HPV immunity through school-based programs in all provinces and territories. Six provinces - Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island - also provide HPV vaccines for boys starting at age 9.
While females can have regular Pap tests to detect precancerous lesions in the cervix, there is no test for HPV-related cancers in the mouth and throat.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). HPV is a different virus than HIV and herpes. HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives. There are also many different types of HPV. Some types can cause health problems, including genital warts and cancers.