Link Between Human Papillomavirus and Oropharyngeal Cancer

Blue tape over a man's mouth

Human papillomavirus is no laughing matter. This sexually-transmitted disease affects 20 million Americans, and assumes various sinister forms. Though HPV most commonly manifests in the form of obnoxious warts and cysts, some afflicted individuals assume a different sort of risk by displaying no symptoms at all. More recently, studies have revealed a new, equally troubling by-product of the Human papillomavirus.

Infections in the delicate mucus membranes of the mouth and throat are at risk of evolving into oropharyngeal cancer, an especially troublesome strain of cancer that can lead to serious damage to the lining of the throat, the base of the tongue and the soft palette. The following is an in-depth look at the link between HPV and this destructive cancer.

The Many Causes of HPV

True to its sub-category, this virus is most commonly transmitted through sexual contact, namely oral sex. The progress of the virus is aided by tobacco and alcohol products, as they inhibit the immune system and allow the virus’ transmission and proliferation. Hand-to-mouth contact, while not as common, also plays a significant role in the transmission of HPV, as well as sharing objects with an individual carrying the virus.

How HPV Causes Oropharyngeal Cancer?

After burrowing through into the mouth’s epithelium layer, the Human papillomavirus initiates the affliction of more complex malignant structures such as squamous-cell carcinomas. The arrival of these toxic masses eventually devolves into full-blown cancer. Luckily, studies show that HPV-positive cancerous cysts are more easily treated than those without the virus. The timeline between initial HPV infection and HPV+OPC can be lengthy, causing many HPV sufferers to take their subsequent well-being for granted. This long stretch of time between HPV and cancer lulls most prospective victims into a false sense of security, often catching them completely off-guard when the virus mutates into full-blown oropharyngeal cancer.

So You Have HPV. What Can You Do to Stop Oropharyngeal Cancer?

For those with children, first thing’s first. Get your offspring vaccinated for HPV to prevent the inadvertent transmission of infection. The cessation of carcinogenic vices and alcohol are also recommended, as a well-rested immune system is paramount to cancer prevention. Other methods include chemoprevention, a barrage of vitamins and pharmaceuticals calculated to reduce the possibility of cancer in high-risk patients, and cutting detrimental foods out of ones diet. Besides known prevention methods such as these, clinical trials for new procedures are being constructed in most major cities. Many of these trials are readily available for viewing online, and are open to qualified participants.


The slope from initial HPV infection to serious oropharyngeal cancer can be a slippery, daunting one. Without a doubt, the most important preventative measures against oropharyngeal cancer must be taken during the start of the HPV infection. An improved diet, un-compromised immune system and choice vitamin supplements can go a long way in keeping the fragile membranes of the throat and mouth out of harms way. Never mind the fact that HPV-sufferers have a better chance of survival with oropharyngeal cancer, wouldn’t it be grand to just not have to deal with it in the first place? These are simple measures to be used effectively.

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