Smoking and oral sex may be a deadly combo that raises a man’s risk for head and neck cancer, a new study suggests.The key factor is the transmission of oral strains of the cancer-linked human papillomavirus (HPV), which can be passed through oral sex.
In fact, men who smoke and have five or more partners with whom they’ve had oral sex — in this study, that typically meant cunnilingus — have the highest risk of developing a type of head and neck cancer known as oropharyngeal cancer.
Dr. Otis Brawley is chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society. Reviewing the new study, he noted that “the incidence of oral HPV infection seems to be rising among white men in their 50s and 60s,” perhaps due to increasing acceptance of oral sex.
Still, for most people, the risk of contracting an HPV-linked head-and-neck cancer remains very low, said lead researcher Amber D’Souza. She is an associate professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.
D’Souza added that the risk is far lower among women and nonsmokers, and people who have few oral sex partners.
The new findings “should reassure people that cancer-causing