Changing sexual practices have led to a dramatic rise in throat cancer in the United States over the past two decades, and experts say they fear an epidemic of the disease.
The comments were made Wednesday at a news conference held by the American Association for Cancer Research to discuss research into the role of the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus ( HPV) in head and neck cancer.
Increasing rates of HPV infection, spread through oralsex, is largely driving the rapid rise in oropharyngeal cancers, which include tumors of the throat, tonsils, and base of the tongue, said Scott Lippman, MD, who chairs the thoracic department at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
Studies of oropharyngeal tumor tissue stored 20 years ago show that only around 20% are HPV positive, Lippman said. Today it is estimated that 60% of patients are infected with the virus.