In the latest study, published in the journal Annals of Oncology, experts analysed data from 13,089 people aged 20-69 who had been tested for oral HPV infection and used the numbers of oropharyngeal cancer cases and deaths from USA registries to predict their risk of cancer.
U.S. experts tested more than 13,000 adults for HPV. But the risk is much lower for women, people who don't smoke and those who have had oral sex with less than five partners. Men have a higher prevalence of oncogenic oral human papillomavirus than women, and prevalence increases with the number of lifetime oral sexual partners and tobacco use, according to a study published online October 19 in the Annals of Oncology.
Risk of infection rose further among men who smoked and had two to four oral sex partners, with a prevalence of 7.1 per cent, rising to 7.4 per cent among those who did not smoke but who had five or more oral sex partners.
The study analysed behaviour and medical records of 13,089 people aged 20 to 69 taking part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) who had been tested for oral HPV infection.
They investigated the prevalence of cancer-causing HPV found in spit and the numbers of new cases of oropharyngeal squamous cell cancer (OSCC) - the most common type of oropharyngeal cancer.
HPV 16 or 18 triggers most cervical cancer while HPV16 most throat cancer.
Prevalence of oral HP infection for women was 1.5% in those that had two oral sex partners or more. "But there are a group of people who get the infection and keep the infection for 20 or 30 years".
Head and neck cancer is predicted to overtake cervical cancer in the US by 2020. Of these, 11,500 (70 percent) are related to HPV infection, D'Souza said. That could be used to more reliably screen the people who are at risk, the researchers behind the study said.
"Most people perform oral sex in their lives, and we found that oral infection with cancer-causing HPV was rare among women regardless of how many oral sex partners they had".
Brawley suggested that there is one easily available prevention: the HPV vaccine.
Patti Gravitt is a professor in the department of global health at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She said the connection between oral HPV and smoking isn't clear.
The report was published October 20 in the Annals of Oncology.