What is Oral HVP?
Oral HPV is one of the contagious strains of the human
papillomaviruses that is classified as an STD or Sexually
Transmitted Disease. Research has shown that oral HPV
infection will increase the risk of developing oral
cancer. STD HPV is transmitted by skin to skin contact
during sexual activity, including, but not restricted
to, vaginal and anal sexual intercourse and oral sex.
HPV affects the skin and mucous membranes of the body
which may include the mouth, throat, tongue, vagina,
vulva, penis and anus.
There are close to 200 hundred stains of HPV that have
been identified. Some strains, like those that cause
common warts, are classified as low-risk viruses; others,
like those that are precursors to cervical and other
genital cancers, are considered high-risk. Scientists
still have not discovered why some strains affect the
surface skin, while others affect the genital region
and why some are precursors for dangerous cancers. They
do know that HPV can be easily transmitted by contact
with skin or mucous membrane that contains the virus.
One of the factors that makes HPV so contagious and
easily spread is that many strains of the virus have
no symptoms and other strains won't always produce symptoms
in all people who come in contact with them. This means
that infected people can be carriers of the virus without
being aware, so they can be infecting sexual partners
innocently.Oral HPV is caused by an HPV strain that is sexually
transmitted during oral sex. There may be no visible
symptoms with oral HPV, depending on the strain of the
virus that has been passed on. The most common noticeable
oral HPV symptom is warts; these are referred to as
genital warts even though they don't appear in the genital
area. This is because the oral warts are caused by one
of the HPV strains that cause genital warts in both
men and women.
Genital warts are usually flat in appearance and may
not be noticeable at first while they are only small.
They can grow in size and multiply in number in time.
Symptoms of oral HPV can take some time to develop –
from a few weeks to months, or even years in some cases.
This can make it very difficult to identify the source
of the infection if you have had more than one sexual
partner. The HPV strains that cause genital warts may
not produce any symptoms in some people who will therefore
not know that they have been infected.
New research has shown that one strain of HPV in particular,
HPV-16, is linked with oral cancer. The area that is
mostly affected by this strain is the back of the mouth,
including the throat, back of the tongue and the tonsils.
The same HPV strain is linked to squamous cell cancers
of the penis and anus.
Oral cancer can also be caused
by alcohol and tobacco although HPV-linked oral cancer
is the fastest growing area of this type of cancer.
A study conducted by Dr. No-He Park has shown that the
cellular structure of the mouth is similar to that of
the cervix and vagina and that HPV-16 and -18 target
this type of epithelial cell; oral cancers are similar
to cervical and vaginal cancers. Dr. Park's study also
showed that tobacco and alcohol assisted the HPV to
invade the cells. The combination of drinking alcohol,
smoking and HPV infection creates the ideal formula
for oral cancers to develop.
The main risk associated with oral HPV infection is,
therefore, the development of oral cancer; although
not all oral HPV infections will lead to oral cancer.
However, people who test positive for oral HPV-16 are
fourteen times more likely to develop an oral cancer.
Another risk factor with oral HPV relates to people
with a weak or compromised immune system, who are less
likely to be able to fight off the infection. In many
cases of HPV infection, the body's own immune system
will deal with the virus and remove it from the body.
HPV-induced oral warts are more difficult to treat and
remove, simply because of their location.