The risk of getting cancer of the mouth after oral sex is small. But for those whose mouths are infected by a special form of the virus, known as a high risk Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), there is an increased risk.
Kerstin Rosenquist compared 132 cancer patients in the south of Sweden with a control group of 320 healthy individuals. In the cancer group, 36% carried the high risk HPV, compared to just 1% in the control group.
The result is in line with earlier studies. Last year French researchers reported that patients with oral cancer who were infected with the virus had had three times more oral sex than who did not carry the virus.
Oral cancer is most common among older middle-aged men.
“But in recent years the disease has increased among young people and we don’t know why,” said Kerstin Rosenquist to TT.
“We can speculate over whether the virus is one of the factors.”
Smoking and high alcohol consumption have long been considered the most significant risk factors, but there is no proven link with the kind of snus used in Sweden.
As well as avoiding oral sex, Kerstin Rosenquist advised people to visit the dentist regularly, since the first symptoms can be hard to spot. Early diagnosis is important if the cancer is to be prevented from spreading to nearby lymph glands.
Other risk factors are poor oral hygiene and missing teeth.