Friday, April 18, 2008

HPV and Cancer Revisited

A recent post on my blog discussed a report by one of my colleagues, Dr. Maura Gillison, on the rise of HPV as a cause of oral cancer. This report is continuing to make news and was highlighted in an article published earlier this week in The Baltimore Sun.

Why is this important? As I discussed previously, this finding raises the possibility that immunization of boys with the HPV vaccine might be helpful not only to break the cycle of sexually transmitted HPV causing cervical cancer, but also to protect the boys themselves from oral cancer.

But the study has implications beyond that. Until recently, the major risk factors for oral cancer were age, alcohol consumption, and smoking. That profile is changing, though, as HPV is becoming a more important cause of this disease.

More recently, doctors are seeing oral cancers arising in younger men with no history of smoking or heavy drinking. Oral cancers in this population are increasing in frequency, and if the trend continues, the number of oral cancer cases may surpass the number of cervical cancer cases in the US.

Fortunately, Dr. Gillison’s group found something else. The prognosis of patients with HPV-associated oral cancer is better than the prognosis of patients whose oral cancer is not caused by the virus.

I guess that’s a silver lining, but all in all it would be better not to get cancer at all!

Illustration courtesy of MedlinePlus

Related posts you may be interested in:
HPV, STIs, and Teenaged Girls: What does 1 in 4 mean and what can be done?
HPV Vaccination: It may not just be for girls
The Virus/Cancer Connection (Part 4): Vaccines, Cervical Cancer, and a Recap


ArkieRN said...

HPV also causes penile cancer. Yet another reason to vaccinate boys.

Doctor David said...

You're absolutely right! Thanks for pointing that out. Penile cancer can be pretty awful, even when it's not fatal, as John D Edwards talks about in his book.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Having a 16 year old son that is frightening. Of course, we were laughing the other day when we overheard him talking to a friend (who was telling him that she had been having oral sex with her boyfriend). He very boldy asked her..."do you know where else he has put that thing?"

Luckily, our son (and his girlfriend) have deep convictions about abstaining from all sexual contact because of their relationship with Christ. He talks with us all the time about his friends - and wonders why they would risk contracting so many of the STD's that are out there!

Great post, thanks for the information. Think I will share this with a link on my blog! Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Last week I went to the dentist and I had an oral cancer screening called "ViziLite" (I'm guessing the spelling). The hygienist had me rinse my mouth for 45 seconds with an 1% acetic acid mouthwash (yuchh!!!) and then she looked at my mouth very carefully with a special pen light. I asked her if it was the same principal as a colposcopy and she agreed it was similar. She was looking for abnormal looking cells. I had to pay $65 for the screening. I don't know if it's a waste of money or not. I have no idea if any group recommends this, but I had it done because I used to smoke and I sometimes worry about oral cancer.

Doctor David said...

What a great comment! Thanks for helping me learn something new. It turns out that the FDA has approved ViziLite as a minimally invasive screening test for oral cancer. The American Dental Association created a new billing code to help dentists bill for the procedure. However, the ADA denied the company that makes ViziLite its "Seal of Acceptance" because they felt that the data supporting the use of ViziLite to prevent oral cancer were not strong enough. This is discussed in some depth here. I think this is because the ViziLite may be no better than careful oral inspection (that is the implication on the ADA's website). I knew nothing about this until I looked it up in response to your comment, so thanks!

Θεμις Μαντζαβινος said...


It is a very nice and great post and I like it.

brad corderba said...

HPV cancer is only relevant in people whose immune system isn’t tossing the virus, which means there are lifestyle factors, then it might not be efficient at all in that segment anyway.

Anonymous said...

I thought the ADA only provides approvals to commercial products it no longer provides seals to professional devices.

the freshmaker *ting said...

Hi, I am a hygienist, the vizilite is ok, but you should always have the hygienist or doctor do a visual exam and palpate you lymph nodes, and the inside of your cheeks, floor of the mouth and tongue..., I go into more detail on my blog:
Like Dr. David said it is not any better that the oral inspection so it is best to have both done and the vizilite alone does not replace the oral cancer screening.

Himachal said...

ith the help of VELscope we can detect potentially dangerous growths beneath the surface that we may not have detected with our conventional oral screening exam. An incandescent light used to enhance the visualization of oral tissue abnormalities. The fluorescence changes in the tissue enable us to differentiate between normal and abnormal findings. The VELscope technology is the only non-invasive adjunctive device clinically proven to help discover occult oral disease.

Dentist India

Sean said...

It is really alarming that there could be a possibility that oral cancer can surpass the rate of cervical cancer in US. It is alarming that aside from lung cancer caused by smoking, the risk of having oral cancer through such vices and reckless sex could also be acquired. Having dentists (Murrells Inlet SC-based) who specializes on oral cancer screenings could somehow lessen the threat or even prevent such increase.

viagra online said...

Well this is very sad because this happens because people have bad habits, thank god i don't smoke or drink and wash my mouth 4 times a day.

Cheap Viagra said...

What the hell HPV means, can anybody give a detailed explanation please ? I want to know it.

Anonymous said...

Cancer is such a huge disease - it's incredible how common various forms are within our society. It's amazing how much research is completed around it.
For information for GPs about cancer and other health issues, as well as clinical and practice advice, I would highly recommend using Pulse-Learning at
GPs and Doctors can earn CPD credit, which is highly valued in the medical industry and helps build an individual as a GP.
Best wishes to all cancer patients out there, here's to a cancer-free future