A Message from the 512th AMDS Dental Clinic on HPV and Oral Cancer

  • Published
  • By Jennilyn McEnroe
  • 512th Aerospace Medicine Squadron

February is Dental Oral Health Month. Although oral health is always important, we would like to take this opportunity to spread awareness of an increasing prevalence of Oral Pharyngeal Cancer linked to the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Many people are aware that alcohol and smoking increase your risk of developing oral cancer, however more recent studies are showing that HPV can be linked to 2 out of 3 oral cancer cases.

An estimated 26 million Americans are infected with HPV at any given time.  There are many varieties of HPV and only a few are known to be cancer causing. The virus is spread through skin to skin contact, commonly by sexual activity including vaginal and oral sex. While most infections are cleared within two years by the body’s immune system without the individual even knowing that they were infected, some types can stay latent in the body for years. Currently there is no way to test for an oral HPV infection. So what can you do?

-Make sure you are visiting your dentist regularly for check- ups

-Report to your dentist any sores or bumps in your mouth that do not resolve after 2 weeks

-Consider vaccination

There are approved vaccines that prevent infection of some of the major types of cancer causing HPV. While these have only been tested as a prevention for genital infections of HPV, it is possible that they can prevent oral infections as well. These vaccines are most effective if given prior to the first sexual contact. So, consider having your kids vaccinated around age 11-13.

Currently, there is no cure for an HPV infection and oral cancer can be deadly. So, stay informed and keep up with your regular dental visits. To learn more you can visit www.oralcancerfoundation.org or ask your dental professional.