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Experts say oral sex may cause throat cancer

07 June 2013, 16:22

Lagos - Some health experts have said that indulging in oral sex might expose one to throat cancer.

They told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that this could be possible due to Human Papilloma virus (HPV), a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) spread through oral or genital sex.

According to them, the HPV Type 16 that causes throat or oropharryngeal cancer is also the cause of many cases of cervical cancer in women.

A medical website,  ww2.cancercenter.com,  says, "Throat cancer is any cancer that forms in the throat. The throat, also called the pharynx, is a 5-inch-long tube that runs from your nose to your neck.

"The larynx (voice box) and pharynx are the two main places where throat cancer forms.

"Throat cancer is a type of head and neck cancer, which includes cancer of the mouth, tonsils, nose, sinuses, salivary glands and neck lymph nodes.``

Ndubuisi Onwuka, an Otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose and Throat doctor), said  recorded cases of strains of HPV-related throat cancers were increasing.

"HPV has been associated with cancers such as that of the cervix, vagina, vulva, penis, anus and throat and HPV- related throat cancers are becoming rampant.

"Recent medical studies have shown that throat cancer has become more common in men than cervical cancer is in women.

"Majority of the cases are transmitted through oral sex.

“In Nigeria, there is no accurate data and statistics to capture or document cases, so, it is very necessary to raise awareness of this.

'We understand that people may have their diverse sexual orientations, but it is wise to be cautious with some modes of coitus or sex to avoid getting some preventable diseases," he said.

Onwuka explained that HPV causes changes in cells that are  infected, thereby making them to become cancerous or grow abnormally.

He also noted that if detected early, HPV-related throat cancer could be easily treated.

"Throat cancer caused by HPV, which is transmitted orally, may not be difficult to be treated if detected on time.

“It is not as difficult as those caused by smoking or drinking alcohol.

“Other infections that may be passed through cunnilingus (oral sex) include syphilis, herpes, chlamydia and gonorrhoea.

"Like every other thing in life, we advocate moderation and safe sex practices,`` he said.

Also speaking, Dr Ikechukwu Okeke, a Public Health Practitioner, said that one would be more prone to developing throat cancer if one smoked cigarette, tobacco or drank excessive alcohol.

He listed other risk factors to include lifestyle, sexual orientation, age, number of sexual partners and frequency of cunnilingus.

``One is more at risk of developing throat cancer if you smoke or drink.

“Your sexual orientation also contributes. If you practise same sex, you are at a higher risk of getting HPV.

``Young people should also be careful. People above 55 years may also have it because they may have contacted HPV when they were younger. It takes some time to manifest," he said.

Okeke said that signs of throat cancer included elongated period of coughing, difficulty in swallowing, ear pain, weight loss, hoarseness.

He advised that a medical practitioner be consulted if symptoms persisted, adding that one could reduce the risk of throat cancer by desisting from smoking, chewing tobacco and limiting alcohol consumption.

In his comment, Dr Abia Nzelu, Lagos Coordinator, National Cancer Prevention Programme (NCCP), said that generally, cancer had gone beyond being a health issue.

"Cancer is not just a health issue. It has wide reaching social, economic, development and human rights implications.

"It has become the number one killer disease of mankind, with 80 per cent of its related deaths occurring in developing countries such as Nigeria.

"An estimated 100 000 Nigerians are diagnosed annually, with a death ratio of four in every five.

"With the right lifestyle, 50 per cent of cancer can be prevented.

“People can also take HPV vaccination. The vaccine- Gardasil,  protects against HPV ‘Types 6, 11, 16 and 18,” she said.

-  NAN

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