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Timing, Intensity of Oral Sex Are Risk Factors for HPV-OPC

Increased odds of human papillomavirus oropharyngeal cancer seen for younger age at first oral sex, oral sex intensity

MONDAY, Jan. 11, 2021 (HealthDay News) — In addition to number of oral sex partners, timing and intensity of oral sex are independent risk factors for human papillomavirus-related oropharyngeal cancer (HPV-OPC), according to a study published online Jan. 11 in Cancer.

Virginia E. Drake, M.D., from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and colleagues enrolled HPV-OPC patients and frequency-matched controls in a multicenter study from 2013 to 2018. Participants completed a behavioral survey to examine novel risk factors for HPV-OPC.

Data were included for 163 HPV-OPC patients and 345 controls. The researchers found that the odds of HPV-OPC were significantly increased with lifetime number of oral sex partners (>10 partners: odds ratio, 4.3). Significantly increased odds of HPV-OPC were seen for younger age at first oral sex (<18 versus >20 years: adjusted odds ratio, 1.8) and oral sex intensity (more than five sex-years: adjusted odds ratio, 2.8) after adjustment for number of oral sex partners and smoking. Associations were seen between type of sexual partner and HPV-OPC, such as older partners when a case was younger (odds ratio, 1.7) or having a partner who had extramarital sex (odds ratio, 1.6). Increased odds of HPV-OPC were seen in association with seropositivity for antibodies to HPV16 E6 and any HPV16 E protein.

“We have uncovered additional nuances of how and why some people may develop this cancer, which may help identify those at greater risk,” Drake said in a statement.

One author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry; a second author disclosed ties to the medical device industry.

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