The same virus that is behind uteral cancer is now thought to be linked to tonsillary cancer, and scientists at Sweden's Karolinska Institutet say changed sexual habits and more oral sex are part of the problem.
During the past 30 years the number of tonsil cancer cases has tripled in number in the Stockholm region. In the same period the amount of tumors infected with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) has gone up from 23 percent in the 70s to 68 percent during the past few years. The increase in HPV is now thought to play a critical role in the formation of this cancer.
Cancer in the head and throat accounts for some 3 percent to 4 percent of all cancer cases in Sweden. During the past 30 years the number of cases have been increasing, baffling scientists.
“For a long time we were perplexed why the total number of tonsil cancer cases increased despite smoking, which is a know cause of such cancer, decreasing,” said Tina Dalianis, a professor of oncology and pathology at Karolinska, according to Svenska Dagbladet. “Infection with HPV can be the reason.”
It is known that the risk for HPV infection and cancer in the uterus increases with the earlier one starts having sex and the number of sex partners one has. Researchers think the same link can be drawn to tonsil cancer.
A positive note is that the prognosis for those cancer patients with the virus infection seems to be a bit more positive than for other cancer patients. The virus seems to trigger an immune defense reaction that researchers hope to be able to better understand and take advantage of in the future.
“Changed sex habits, a younger age for having sex for the first time, more partners, and more oral sex could be the cause behind the increase of the cases of cancer,” researchers said.