Did you know that almost 80% of people will get an HPV infection during their life? The number is staggering, especially considering that this common virus is also linked to several types of cancer. This includes throat cancer.
What is HPV?
Human papillomavirus, commonly known as HPV, is a group of over 150 related viruses all generally spread through sexual contact. Symptoms may not be immediate. The virus often goes away on its own, but can also lie in wait to cause new symptoms and even cancer.
In 2006, the first vaccine for HPV was licensed for use. The vaccine protects against the highest-risk types of HPV and is recommended for everyone between ages 9 and 26.
The newest findings on HPV and throat cancer
While just 5% of people with HPV develop throat cancer, there has long been a link between HPV and throat cancer. Researchers have struggled to understand just why that may be. A team at the University of Rochester Medical Center may now have an answer.
According to the research, recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the human papillomavirus may lie in wait in small pockets on the surface of the tonsils called “tonsil crypts.” The team believes that it is here in the biofilm that HPV is able to most effectively hide from the immune system to wait.
In a study of tissue samples from 102 patients who had elective tonsillectomies, Matthew Miller, M.D., associate professor of Otolaryngology and Neurosurgery at URMC, and his colleagues found HPV in biofilms inside tonsil crypts. These pockets are often the starting point of HPV-related head and neck cancers.
The results of the tissue sample study were conclusive. Five samples contained HPV. Four contained high-risk strains of HPV. In each of those, HPV was found in tonsil crypts biofilms.
“Given the lack of universal HPV immunization and the potential for the virus to evade the immune system even in individuals with detectable HPV in their blood, our findings could have far-reaching implications for identifying people at risk of developing HPV-related head and neck cancers and ultimately preventing them,” Miller said.
The facts about cancer
With cancer such a common concern, it is important to know the facts and take steps to reduce your risk whenever possible. According to recent data, head and neck cancer accounts for about 4% of all cancers in the United States. It is estimated that last year, almost 65,000 people would develop head and neck cancer. Most of those over the age of 50 when diagnosed.
Experts recommend reducing your risk by:
Researchers continue to investigate the link between Human papillomavirus and cancer, how to detect it, and how to prevent it. Until a cure can be found, it’s crucial to take steps to reduce your risk and catch it early for the most effective treatment.
If you have questions or concerns about HPV and throat cancer, call our office to schedule an appointment.