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November 12, 2014

Oral HPV Can Be Transmitted by Kissing

HPV transmitted by oral sex is the leading cause of oral and throat cancer now surpassing throat cancer due to tobacco products and alcohol. The main concern is whether kissing can also transmit HPV.

A small John Hopkins study suggested that kissing did not increase risk of oral HPV transmission, but a more recent and larger study conducted at McGill University suggests that open-mouthed kissing actually does increase the risk of oral HPV being transmitted from one partner to the other.

According to the McGill study conducted on 222 couples, 7.2% of men had oral HPV. Of these men, 28.6% also had a female partner who had oral HPV infection while 11.5% had a genital HPV infection. No HPV infections were found among men who had a partner without oral or genital HPV, those who were in a monogamous relationship or those who had never smoked. These findings suggest that HPV transmission can potentially occur thru oral-oral contact.


Contrary to these findings, the smaller Johns Hopkins study was performed only on 93 partners and found that the prevalence of HPV infection in the throat was no higher than would have been expected by chance alone. Specifically, about 1.2% had HPV which is equivalent to what one would find in couples without history of HPV throat cancer (1.3%). There were only six male partners, none of whom had oral infection with HPV.

What is the take home message?

It does appear that not only does oral sex increase the risk of oral HPV infection if one partner is infected, but so does open-mouthed kissing.

Of note, our office does offer the HPV spit test to see if HPV is present in the mouth/throat.


Reference:
Oral Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection in HPV-Positive Patients With Oropharyngeal Cancer and Their Partners. Journal of Clinical Oncology. April 28, 2014, doi: 10.1200/JCO.2014.55.1341

Sexual Transmission of Oral Human Papillomavirus Infection among Men. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, November 2014 DOI: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-14-0386
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids. Google+ Christopher Chang, MD Bio

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