Mayo Clinic: The link between HPV and throat cancer

(Vitali Michkou/Dreamstime/TNS)
(Vitali Michkou/Dreamstime/TNS)

There are more than 100 strains of HPV. Some types of the virus can cause cancer. HPV 16 has been linked to the rising cases of oropharyngeal cancer, commonly known as throat cancer. It is the most common HPV-associated cancer in men, and the rate of infection continues to increase.

Dr. Katharine Price, a medical oncologist with the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center, said that while HPV-related throat cancer is often curable, prevention is best.

Oropharyngeal cancers are the most common HPV-related cancers, and they occur more frequently in men. About 60 percent to 70 percent of head and neck cancers are linked to the virus. Price explains where it often develops.

"Largely in the oropharynx -- this part of the throat that is at the tonsil and then circling around to the back of the tongue, and it's where all of this lymphoid-rich tissue lives," she said.

These cancers are treatable, but prevention is always better, starting with the HPV vaccine.

"It's a vaccine that is recommended for all boys and girls, at age 11 and 12. That's when it's on the routine recommendation list for vaccines, although you can actually give it as early as 9," Price said.

The vaccine is available to people through age 45.

"It's much better to get a vaccine that's safe, that has no long-term side effects or complications than to have to go through surgery, radiation, chemotherapy," Price said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more information on the vaccine dosage and schedule for children and adults.

Along with vaccination, you can reduce risks by avoiding tobacco and limiting alcohol use.

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