The Rise of HPV Related Oral Cancer
The number of Cases of HPV-related oral cancers has risen dramatically in the last few decades. Approximately 8,000 men and 2,000 women in the USA are diagnosed with HPV associated cancers of the mouth and throat each year according to the American Cancer Society. In fact, HPV is the leading cause of oropharynx cancer in The USA. Only 57% of those diagnosed will be alive in five years.
Before the rise in HPV related mouth and throat cancers we saw the greatest incidence in older men with a history of smoking and drinking. Now we see young people of both genders with no other risk factors.
It is obvious that with a 225% increase in HPV related oropharyngeal cancers since 1988, we are seeing an emerging epidemic. What to do? First we must do everything possible to prevent the infection of HPV and second, diagnose the cancers early. Fortunately we have vaccines for HPV today. These vaccines are most effective before an individual becomes sexually active. Safer sex practice is also prudent. When diagnosed early, oral cancers have an 80-90% survival rate.We screen for oral and throat cancer in our practice at every check-up. Another reason to have dental check-ups at least twice yearly! Patients should be informed that any sore in the mouth or on the lips that does not resolve in two weeks should be professionally evaluated and biopsied. Hoarseness and difficulty swallowing, swollen glands that don’t go away in a couple of weeks are also signs that require professional evaluation. They could be early warning signs of cancer.