Oropharyngeal Cancer Risks Include Number of Sexual Partners, Smoking

The incidence of human papillomavirus-related oropharyngeal cancer (HPV-OPC) is on the rise. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University assessed survey data to determine whether the risk among the general population is rising as well. Results show that for most people, the risk remains low.
BY Jason Harris
PUBLISHED December 08, 2017
The incidence of human papillomavirus-related oropharyngeal cancer (HPV-OPC) is on the rise. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University assessed survey data to determine whether the risk among the general population is rising as well. Results show that for most people, the risk remains low.

Among men aged 50 to 59 years, 8.1 percent have an oncogenic oral HPV infection and 2.1 percent have an oral HPV16 infection, but only 0.7 percent will ever develop oropharyngeal cancer in their lifetime. Current smokers and men who have had at least five lifetime oral sex partners were at elevated risk, with a lifetime prevalence of 14.9 percent.

"Despite recent increases in its incidence, HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer remains a rare cancer in the United States," coauthor Carole Fakhry, M.D., an associate professor in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School's Department of Epidemiology, said in a press release.

About 70 percent of oropharyngeal cancers are related to HPV. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 12,000 people are diagnosed with HPV-associated cancers annually. The incidence of HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer has been rising since the 1980s, and in the past two decades has doubled among men.

To determine which patients were most likely to develop HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancers, Fakhry and her colleagues examined data from 13,089 people aged 20 to 69 years who participated in National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2009 to 2014 and had oral HPV DNA testing. Participants aged 20 to 59 (9,425) were analyzed for number of oral sex partners. To assess projections of OPC risk, investigators reviewed Incidence and incidence-based mortality data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program of the National Cancer Institute
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