If you're not interested in family social issues, now is the time to hit the delete key. My readers know that I have written frequently in the past about the prevalence of HPV in teenagers—and the risk of cancer caused by certain strains of HPV. NPR recently noted that there is now more evidence that HPV causes oral, head and neck cancers and that vaccines may be able to prevent it.
We used to talk about HPV being the cause of over 99% of all cervical cancers. However, researchers studying the human papilloma virus now say that in the United States HPV causes 64 percent of oropharynxl cancers.
Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, professor of pediatrics at the University of California at San Francisco, believes the message may be more critical for teens. In her study of 600 adolescents over 10 years, she found that oral sex is much more common than vaginal sex and that "teens don't consider oral sex to be sex," that they think "it's not that big a deal." She adds: "Parents and health educators are not talking to teens about oral sex. Period."
Worldwide, HPV-related cancers seem to be increasing. Gillison said that Swedish researchers looking back over 30 years found that 23 percent of oral cancer tumors in 1970 were positive for HPV, but in 2005, that number had risen to 93 percent, nearly catching up with cervical cancer statistics.
In addition, not commonly known to laypersons, there is considerable evidence that recurrent respiratory papilloma ["RRP"], a rare, incurable and potentially fatal disease in children, results from a vertical transmission of HPV from mother to child. The statistics are as shocking as those above. In a study using data collected by the RRP Foundation, it was found that the number of JORRP patients born via cesarean section was less than 25% of the statistically expected number based on national normals, suggesting that a cesarean birth might play a preventative role for RRP. Furthermore, mothers under the age of 20, who have condyloma during pregnancy and who deliver their first born child vaginally, appear to be at greatest risk of infecting their newborn. You can read more of this study on the website of the RRP Foundation.
Earlier posts on this Blog about HPV and vaccines may be read here.
And see, Girshman, Peggy, Virus Passed During Oral Sex Tops Tobacco As Throat Cancer Cause, NPR, 2/22/2011
Parents, educate yourself as to the dangers and how to talk to your teenagers about HPV in this book: Meeker, Dr. Margaret, Your Kids at Risk: How Teen Sex Threatens Our Sons and Daughters [Paperback]