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June 02, 2013

Can HPV be Caught by Kissing Someone with HPV Throat Cancer?

HPV transmitted by oral sex is the leading cause of oral and throat cancer now. And for spouses/partners of patients diagnosed with HPV throat cancer, the main concern is whether it is "contagious".

After all, if HPV is transmittable by oral sex, than it would seem that kissing can also transfer HPV to the partner as well.

Well, a small Johns Hopkins study suggests that kissing someone who has HPV oropharyngeal cancer does NOT lead to a new HPV infection in the mouth or throat in the partner. Among 94 partners of 166 patients, prevalence of HPV infection in the throat was no higher than would have been expected. Specifically, about 5% had HPV which is equivalent to what one would find in couples without history of HPV throat cancer. There were only six male partners, none of whom had oral infection with HPV.

Please keep in mind that this study is far from definitive and further study is required before one can say with absolute certainty that kissing is totally safe. After all, oral sex leading to HPV infection of the mouth is a relatively recent discovery. Who is to say that with time and enough study, even kissing may eventually be found to do the same.

The study was presented at the 2013 annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology.

Wives of Men With HPV Throat Tumors Need Not Worry About Catching HPV. Forbes 6/1/13

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