HPV and Oral Cancer

The human papilloma virus (HPV) is a double-stranded DNA virus that infects the epithelial cells of skin and mucosa. The same types of HPV that infect the genital areas can infect the mouth and throat. Some types of oral HPV can cause cancers of the head and neck area. Most commonly in the base of the tongue and tonsils.

HPV oral and oropharyngeal cancers may be harder to diagnose than tobacco related cancers because the symptoms are not always obvious. They can be very subtle and painless. When present, some of these symptoms may include persistent sore throat, earaches, hoarseness, enlarged lymph nodes, pain when swallowing, and unexplained weight loss.

Oral HPV is about 3 times more common in men than in women. About 7% of people have oral HPV but only 1% of people have the type of oral HPV that is found in oropharyngeal cancers.

The time between the first oral HPV infection and cancer is not known but it may take many years. Some people have infection 15 years or more before cancer.
It is of utmost importance for you to keep your regular checkups with your dentist to ensure proper and early detection of any type of oral cancer.

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