HPV and Head and Neck Cancers: Latest Insights:

Updated on 11/09/2023

Research underscores the association between HPV, especially HPV type 16, and oropharyngeal cancers. The prevalence of HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers has been rising in many developed countries. As of the last decade, it was noted that a significant percentage of oropharyngeal cancers in the U.S. and Europe were HPV-positive. This shift in aetiology emphasizes the importance of HPV vaccination, not only for preventing cervical cancers but also for oropharyngeal cancers.

Can kissing really be a cause of concern?


Figures published from the US show that 70% of head and neck cancers are due to the human papillomavirus, also known as HPV.

So, what is HPV? Human papillomavirus is a group of viruses that affect the skin and moist membranes lining your body. It is contracted during sexual intercourse and skin-to-skin contact of the genital areas. This also includes kissing.

When HPV is contracted by mouth, it affects the oropharynx (the middle part of the throat). Studies have shown you are 250 times more likely to develop head and neck cancer if you have contracted the virus.

As HPV usually has no symptoms, it is highly recommended you are screened for the virus. This is covered in your pap test, also known as a smear for women. Unfortunately for men, no current test is fully reliable, so we not only urge you to get the vaccination but also look for small signs of infection such as genital warts or changes in your penile, scrotal, anal, or throat areas.

In the past it has been widely spoken about and linked to cervical cancer. In September 2008 national health authorities financed the HPV vaccination for girls only. However, given the evidence from years of research, talks have started on opening the vaccine up to boys between 9 and 15.

Since the extremely high numbers of cases being recorded in the UK people are now being urged to seek the injection as soon as possible.

Not only does the vaccine protect against cervical cancer, but also oropharynx cancer, genital warts anal cancer and some cases of vaginal and penile cancers to name but a few.

Possible side effects from the HPV vaccine

· Stinging, soreness and redness around the point of injection
· Headaches
· Fever
· Nausea

Since July of this year, the human papillomavirus vaccine has become available in Scotland to male members of the gay community (MSM) up to 45 years of age through sexual health and HIV clinics, we have so far had no mention of it being introduced in the same way in England, the vaccine is however available “off licence” to adults 40+ in my clinic.