A recent study says people who have had four or more oral-sex partners are 250% more likely to develop throat cancer than those who do not engage in oral sex.
The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Researchers believe oral sex may transmit human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus found in most types of cervical cancers.
Throat and tonsil cancers affect approximately two in every 100,000 adults in the United States.
Blood and saliva samples were taken from 100 patients that have been diagnosed with cancers of the tonsils and throat and studied by Maura Gillison at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland.
Researchers combined the patient samples with antibody molecules to decipher if a person had previously had an HPV infection.
Each study participant provided their past sexual history, including the total number of partners with whom they had engaged in oral sex.
After eliminating other throat cancer risks, including smoking and drinking, researchers discovered that those people who had a prior HPV infection were 32 times more likely to develop this type of cancer than those with no trace of ever having had the virus at all.
Patients who tested positive for a specific and aggressive strain of virus, known as the HPV-16, were 58 times more likely to develop throat cancer.
By contrast, the cancer risk is increased threefold, for those that smoke and drink.
The study findings should help to encourage consistent use of condoms during oral sex to help protect against HPV. Experts also hope the results will encourage men to receive the HPV vaccine.
Gardasil - HPV Vaccine
Gardasil is a vaccine indicated for the prevention of the human papillomavirus (HPV), the cause of cervical cancer. The vaccine is approved to prevent genital warts and cervical cancers caused by HPV in girls and young women. The FDA approved Gardasil for patient use in 2006. The Gardasil vaccine is manufactured by Merck & Co. #