HPV and Oral Sex . . .What Do You Know?

Berro, Alezibth, Ronya Beydoun, Rosie Chakur, Samar Farhat, and Raquel Villalobos

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a DNA virus, transmitted by contact, which causes benign epithelial proliferations on cutaneous and mucosal surfaces. These appear as warts on the hands, feet, oral cavity and genitals.  Some strains of HPV are more often transmitted sexually and are associated with genital HPV.  A number of these genital strains may transform into invasive carcinomas of the cervix, vulva and vagina. How then does a sexually transmitted disease infect the oral cavity?  The answer is oral sex. Oral sex is the stimulation of the genitalia by the mouth, tongue or teeth.  Oral sex is one of the most commonly performed sexual acts being practiced by at least fifty percent of adults.  Not recognizing oral sex as a sexual act, many teenagers do not consider oral sex as “sex”, but oral sex is not the safer sex.  HPV is increasing in all populations and the oral cavity has become a primary site with an increase in cancers at the base of the tongue, tonsils and other areas of the oropharynx.  Dr. Brondani said, “Unless there is a change in the societal mentality toward “oral sex” and in an increased rapport between patients and health professionals, we will likely see an increase in the incidence of many preventable but devastating oral malignancies.”