This is L.A. and even though the city is making it harder for those of us who enjoy a puff or five on a Marlboro Red to do so in public, we still do it. And we all know the link to throat cancer that these little white tubes of tobacco provide, but believe it or not there's other risky behavior that's more likely to give your oral region the Big C than big cigarettes.
The Human Papilloma Virus, aka HPV. That's the virus that comes in all kinds of different strains, some causing warts on various body parts while others giving your cells reason to grow at an abnormal uncontrollable rate.
There's been buzz in the last several weeks following findings that oral sex can cause throat cancer. Then a Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center study revealed conclusive evidence that HPV in the mouth beats out tobacco and booze for cancer-causing in folks under the age of 50. (Here's a podcast outlining the results.)
And now a study performed at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa, Fla., shows up to 50 percent of American men have HPV. Published March 1 in The Lancet medical journal, the study's results show that each year approximately 6 percent of men are infected with HPV16, the strain known to cause cervical cancer in women and other cancers in men.
So what do you do?
Vaccinate. Several researchers, including those involved with the above-mentioned studies, are using these most recent findings as more reason to promote the use of the popular Gardisil vaccine on men.
The vaccine doesn't protect you from all 40-or-so HPV strains. I was vaccinated years ago and still managed to have an HPV-induced abnormal pap smear a year ago. But it can prevent the cancer-causing ones from taking hold and wreaking havoc on your insides.
Renowned HPV research expert Maura Gillison, MD, PhD, shared in a statement following the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual meeting last month that though there isn't yet hard evidence that the vaccine will work the same in your mouth and throat, scientists are optimistic.
'We don't know from strict scientific evidence whether the vaccine will protect from oral HPV infections that lead to cancer,” Gillison said. “Those of us in the field are optimistic it will – the vaccines in every anatomical site looked at so far have been shown to be extraordinarily effective, about 90 per cent effective, at preventing infections.
“When one of my patients asks whether or not they sound vaccinate their sons, I say certainly.”
So why not? Especially while you've still got access to Planned Parenthood's less-pricey services and/or health care through your workplace/parents/significant other.
Ladies: It's common sense. Protect yourself. And knowing you (and your gay counterparts) aren't likely to enjoy the pungent taste of a latex condom while sucking cock, you have no reason not to.
Gents: You're less likely to naturally rid yourself of HPV once infected (women often do so within a year or two of initial infection) and you likely won't even show symptoms, making it nearly impossible to know you even have it. This means it's even more risky for you to get BJ after BJ in the back room of your favorite bar.
And much like no one with a pulse enjoys slurping around a condom, I doubt you're game to have your fellatio foiled by the stretchy STI-preventing barrier.
Plus, I imagine it's tough to make out when half of your jaw's been removed, and it's certainly not sexy to pick up your next lay with a tracheostomy. So yeah. I'll see you in the waiting room.