Oral sex with women a leading cause of head and neck cancer in men says Northwick Park surgeon

PUBLISHED: 11:04 28 September 2018 | UPDATED: 12:04 01 October 2018

Bhavin Visavadia, consultant oral and maxillofacial surgeon at Northwick Park Hospital. Picture: NHS Trust

Bhavin Visavadia, consultant oral and maxillofacial surgeon at Northwick Park Hospital. Picture: NHS Trust


Oral sex with women is likely the cause of a rise in head and neck cancer among men in Brent, according to a Northwick Park surgeon.

Bhavin Visavdia, consultant oral and maxillofacial surgeon at the Watford Road hospital, blamed the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is also a cause of cervical cancer.

Girls are already routinely immunised against HPV, but the links between the virus and cancers in men have brought about changes in the law that will see them, too, receive a jab to protect them.

Mr Visavdia is reporting a rise in the number of patients with head and neck cancer as part of Make Sense, a national awareness week.

He said: “There has been a noticeable increase in recent years and oropharyngeal cancer can be triggered by contracting HPV, which is a common cause of cervical cancer in women.

“Oral sex is the obvious candidate for transmission to men as the virus is found in the female cervix.”

Mr Visavadia said the condition, which has been associated with older men who are heavy drinkers and smokers, is increasingly affecting younger men in their 40s and 50s.

Research in Annals of Oncology showed 15 per cent of men who smoked and had five or more oral sex partners were most likely to get HPV, but smokers with few partners are also vulnerable to infection.

The lowest risk group were non-smokers who had one or no oral sex partners in their lifetimes, with only 1.5pc of them getting an oral HPV infection.

There are more than 100 different types of the virus, most of which cause no symptoms and go away by themselves without treatment.

Other types cause harmless growths such as verrucas and warts.

But HPV infections also increase the risk of developing cancers of the genitals, anus, mouth and throat.

According to the British Association of Head and Neck Oncologists, which is backing the Make Sense campaign, head and neck cancer is now the seventh most common type of cancer in Europe.

Northwick Park Hospital, a regional centre of excellence for head and neck cancer surgery and reconstruction, carries out more than 200 procedures a year.

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