The Culprit Behind Throat Cancer Trend

The Culprit Behind Throat Cancer Trend

Despite the​ active campaign on cancer prevention, the​ incidence of​ throat cancers in​ the​ United States has not dropped in​ recent years. in​ fact, the​ statistics are even rising in​ some areas, as​ opposed to​ the​ downward trend in​ other head and​ neck cancers that are usually associated with smoking and​ drinking alcohol.
It is​ being investigated if​ infections with the​ sexually transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV) could be the​ real cause. HPV is​ a​ virus that causes infections such as​ genital warts and​ most cervical cancers. Recently, researchers have found that the​ transmission of​ HPV through oral sex is​ a​ potential cause of​ throat cancer.
Early findings emphasize the​ importance of​ research directed at​ establishing if​ the​ newly available HPV vaccine is​ effective in​ males. This vaccine is​ considered to​ be almost 100% effective in​ preventing cervical infections. Thus, the​ medical community and​ vaccine industry is​ encouraged to​ study its role in​ preventing oral cancer.
At present, tobacco use and​ drinking alcohol are ranked as​ the​ biggest risk factors for​ head and​ neck cancers. According to​ the​ American Cancer Society, about 90% of​ patients with these sickness either smoke or​ chew tobacco, or​ have done so in​ the​ past, and​ up to​ 80% of​ oral cancer patients also drink a​ lot of​ alcohol.
The newly published analysis of​ head and​ neck cancer trends in​ the​ U.S. showed that the​ decline in​ smoking has led to​ a​ decline in​ most head and​ neck cancers over the​ past two decades. However, throat cancer remains to​ be the​ main exception to​ this trend. This is​ more specifically defined as​ cancer of​ the​ oropharynx, which includes the​ tonsils, base of​ the​ tongue and​ soft palate, and​ side and​ back of​ the​ throat.
Although these cancers are rare, their incidence has remained steady, overall, while tongue cancer rates among young adults have increased. They conclude that this is​ likely due to​ HPV infections, which could be spread through oral sex.
Over the​ last five years, 35% of​ the​ throat cancer patients treated at​ M.D. Anderson Cancer Center had no history of​ smoking and​ that close to​ 90% of​ patients who had never smoked showed evidence of​ oral infections with HPV.
The current policy in​ the​ U.S. is​ to​ recommend HPV vaccine only to​ young girls aged 11 to​ 12 years old, and​ for​ women up to​ age 26 who have not received it​ yet. Researchers concluded that vaccinating only females against HPV could result in​ a​ missed opportunity to​ prevent throat cancers. However, in​ countries like Australia and​ Mexico, the​ HPV vaccine is​ being offered even to​ males, though there is​ still no clinical proof to​ show that HPV infections in​ men lead to​ throat cancer. Studies are now under way to​ find out if​ the​ vaccine can protect boys against genital HPV infections.
“The HPV vaccine could be a​ very effective protection against cervical cancer, and​ there is​ a​ good chance that it​ will reduce the​ incidence of​ other types of​ HPV-promoted cancers as​ well,” said Debbie Saslow, PhD, of​ the​ American Cancer Society. “But we have no data to​ confirm that, and​ we won’t have any in​ the​ near future.”

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