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UNF Spinnaker

Oral Sex now major concern in causes of throat cancer

Members of the UNF Health Promotion staff believe the rise in throat cancer can be attributed to a change in our culture’s view of oral sex.

Scientists across the country are finding oral sex causes throat cancer — passing tobacco as the leading cause in the United States. The reason behind this concern for oral sex is the potential infections behind the human papillomavirus (HPV).

HPV has consistently been a topic of concern because it is the same virus that causes cervical cancer. HPV is a common sexually transmitted disease that infects about 40 million people today. There are over 120 different strands of the virus.

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, 37,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year, and 8,000 will die. These numbers include people who use tobacco as well as those engaging in oral sex. However, people who develop cancer through oral sex are more likely to survive cancer than heavy smokers or drinkers.

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According to National Public Radio, Dr. Maura Gillison of Ohio State University said to members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science that the human papillomavirus (HPV) causes roughly 64 percent of oropharynxl cancers.

The oropharynx is the part of the throat at the back of the mouth that includes the back third of the tongue, the soft palate, the side and back walls of the throat, and the tonsils.

When it comes to infections transmitted through oral sex, people mainly need to be concerned with HIV, HPV and gonorrhea, said Dr. John Oliver, a UNF adjunct psychology professor who teaches a class called “Human Sexuality.”

Oliver said many studies are focusing on sex between males and females, but he said he believes the virus can be contracted through homosexual or bisexual activity, as well.

“We have to assume the virus is transmitted either way,” Oliver said.

Kendall McCray, a counselor at the UNF Health Promotion department, said many students need to make sure they have condoms with them at all times, even if they are not planning on having sex. He said while oral sex is a potential risk, it is not as risky as intercourse for contracting STIs.

Ashley Ballard, coordinator of health education at Health Promotion, said many women do not know they have HPV, since some strains can have no visible symptoms or warts. Ballard also said it’s important to realize HPV can be spread through skin-on-skin contact.

Oliver said when two people engage in oral sex, the risk of contracting HPV is lower if bodily fluids are not ingested. Oliver said that because the vagina naturally has bodily fluids, the risk of contracting HPV through male-to-female oral sex is higher.Thus, partners engaging in male-to-male sexual activity involving oral sex may be at a potentially lower risk of HPV contraction through oral sex considering the ingestion of bodily fluids can be more easily avoided. Lesbians may be at a potentially higher risk for HPV infection.

Oliver said even middle schoolers are beginning to engage in oral sex because they do not believe it is actually sex.

“They get to have sex without having sex,” Oliver said. “It doesn’t seem to carry the same moral weight.”

The key factor in determining a person’s risk of HPV infection, Oliver said, is by the number of sexual partners the person has had in their lifetime. Oliver has researched the likelihood of STI contraction in the past and has found that by having three sex partners, a person has increased their likelihood of contraction by 30 times.

“By the time you’ve had your fifth partner, you’ve literally had sex with 400 people,” Oliver said.

There are ways to help prevent HPV contraction. There are prescribed vaccines, such as Gardasil, that can be used to prevent certain strands of the HPV virus. Males between the ages of nine and 26 years old can use Gardasil, as well.

There are several strains of the HPV virus, but strains 16 and 18 are the most problematic, and strain 16 accounts for 90 percent of all HPV-related cancers, Oliver said. HPV also causes approximately 90 percent of cases of anal cancer.

In a monogamous relationship, Oliver said oral sex is healthy and acts as a “wonderful variation” for couples.

Dr. John Oliver and members of UNF Health Promotion provide tips to help prevent HPV contraction:


-Use oral condoms. “Fruity-flavored condoms” are useful in providing pleasure and staying safe, Oliver said.

-Use dental dams. These can help prevent skin-to-skin contact during oral sex.

-Talk to your partner. Makes sure you and your partner are comfortable with talking about oral sex and the risks of Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) transmission.

-Get tested for HPV as well as other STIs. It is better to be safe and know your status.

-Make sure to get regular pap smears through your gynecologist. Doctors can run HPV screens as well as discuss vaccination options.


-Brush your teeth or floss before performing oral sex. Brushing your teeth or flossing separates the gums from the tooth and increases the risk of contracting an infection during oral sex.

-Ingest bodily fluids. Ingesting bodily fluids during oral sex can increase the risk of contracting infections, including HPV, HIV and gonorrhea.

-Lose track of your drinks at parties. Date rape drugs can lead to potential risks for STIs.

-Don’t always take your partners word for it. Make sure to see documentation of testing that shows that your partner is clean.

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  • T

    TaraFeb 27, 2012 at 12:17 am

    Dr. John Oliver apparently doesn’t consider male ejaculate to be a bodily fluid. I would think that a man or woman pleasing a man orally will ingest more bodily fluid than a man or woman pleasing a woman orally. So what is the REAL reason men get HPV oral/throat cancers than women?

  • M

    MelanieApr 1, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    It has persisted throughout the ages—SEX SELLS…The only problem is they want to sell you something to continue to keep giving them profits for years to come…HOW could big pharma possibly keep rolling in the dough for yrs. to come from one little vaccine? LOL Because we have a high incidence of stealth pathogens in the people of all syndromes of unknown origin caused by infectious proteins hiding in our DNA they don’t want you to know about. Many countries are working to cure them with treatment to kill everything that is hiding and stem cells to kick the immune system in. Right now they are working to find what all is capable of folding by many universities….How do you like you Parkinsons, ALS, MS. Facing forward or doggie style? LOL

  • S

    StephenApr 1, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Michigan State checking in. Great cover, I found out about this purely from the cover. Informative read, though like other posters said, some facts were left out. Still, glad something could attract readers to the issue.

  • M

    mbMar 31, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    The people who turn a blind eye to teenagers/college students engaging in oral sex should talk to the emergency room nurses and health care professionals who see kids coming in completely unaware that they have an STD, in utter denial of what they’re doing & how they got it. It’s funny that the conservatives want to run our lives according to their rules but there’s no charity or kindness in it. They’ll let us go to hell our own way and feel superior because they never got caught breaking the rules.

    This was a good article. It got the basic facts across in the space allocated to it. Maybe include where to find the source info for people who want more in depth info.

    The only sensationalism was the cover photo. It certainly grabs you’re attention. The funny thing is that the more clothes the participants have on the more “naughty” it seems. Unfortunately, we’re still Victorian that way.

  • A

    AnnaMar 31, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    I agree that this article got the attention it was aiming for and in the process managed to reach tons of people that it never would have without the cover photo. Shock is often one of the best tactics in getting people’s attention and opening their eyes to facts they might otherwise try to ignore.

    I must say that I immediately noticed the way the article assumed that homosexual oral sex was male on male and not female on female which seems like a pretty substantial oversight… especially since going on the information here (and nothing else) it is very easy to come to the conclusion that lesbians would face an even greater rick for throat cancer caused by HPV.

  • M

    MollyMar 31, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Most cases of HPV aren’t life threatening, and with regular pap smears and visits to your doctor, it is impossible for it to just all of a sudden become cancer. It takes time for these cells to turn into ovarian cancer, so if sexually active women are taking control of their health and visiting their OB/GYN, it can be monitored and treated.

    Most people will get HPV in their lifetime, even if you’ve had 2 or 42 sex partners. Since it can be spread even if you use a condom, it is just something that happens to most people who have sex. Most cases clear up on their own and are not high risk, which should be noted for women who may have just found out they have it and are worried. The shot protects against the most high-risk types of HPV, which is why all women should get it and get regular paps.

    And I think the cover was a genius idea. Sex sells and getting people talking and reading by putting something risque on the cover is a smart move.

  • H

    Hmm...Mar 31, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    I feel like this article fails to mention the prevalence of HPV and that it doesn’t necessary doom one to getting cancer. I suppose I expected a more thorough description of the disease in addition to these facts, including the information that the majority of cases clear on their own.

  • T

    TylerMar 31, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    I am a student at Clemson University. I recently watched a clip about the controversy surrounding this article that I saw on the blog Tumblr through The Daily What, and I drove me to seek out the article itself on this sight and read it.

    As someone speaking in defense of the cover stated in the video I watched, “the provocative images [on the cover] force students to care about the story.” I think it was worth noting that I, as a Clemson student, definitely would not have been aware of this article (which was informative/relevant for me) if not for the image used. For this reason, I would like to thank whoever made the call to include the picture on the cover for putting student safety ahead of all else.

  • E

    ElKaBongMar 30, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    Is there anywhere I can volunteer for a “Study” ?
    By the way, I have no problem with you’re publishing this content, it is, as someone stated above,
    Keep up the good work.

  • J

    JamesMar 30, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Editor, good call focusing on real issues instead of worrying about the politics involved. If only there were more people willing to make big risks.

    Thank god for the 1st amendment.

  • J

    JamesMar 30, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Editor: good call focusing on real issues instead of worrying about the politics involved. If only there were more people willing to make big risks.

    Thank god for the 1st amendment.

  • D

    deyaflMar 30, 2011 at 9:17 am

    I think the number is closer to 20 million Americans who are infected with HPV. What this article failed to mention is that just about every person will be infected with HPV in their lifetime. Sometimes the infection resolves itself on its own and other times it progresses to cancer. Just because you have HPV does not mean you will develop cancer — it only increases your risk.

    Also, it is homosexual males who may be at a lower risk of HPV related throat cancer because of the reduced exchange of bodily fluids. However, the article failed to mention the risk that lesbian women face.

    I just feel that this article was lacking in many regards to effectively represent such a controversial photo.

  • A

    Angie Koury LiebMar 30, 2011 at 9:13 am

    Great job with the cover! I saw the link on http://www.news4jax.com and immediately read the article. I was the editor of the JU Navigator in 1996-1997 when we published the “sock boy” picture on the front page. I was fired as editor and almost kicked out of school. You know what, I’d do it again. I have a great job, a great family, and am not nearly the menace to society my critics thought I was. Keep your head up in the midst of the controversy and keep serving your readers with such informative articles.
    Angie Koury Lieb

  • K

    KarenMar 29, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    Dagnis, you are so right. They wanted to get our attention to get the message across. They got it! We will all learn from this.
    Good job.

  • D

    DagnisMar 29, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    I love this article.

    Eunice. You need to not judge so fast. God is the only one to judge, and last time I checked, your Eunice, not God. Don’t assume that the writer is glorifying or enabling the act. Oral sex all the time, if you like it or not. I don’t par take in the act, but wouldn’t be surprised if over half of the school population does.

    It’s good that articles like this are coming out. People are gunna do what they are gunna do, and we might as well help them do it safely by making them aware of this information.

    On the issue of the cover. It’s different, major attention grabber, and gets to the point without actually showing anything. When I saw this picture on my news feed on facebook (being a personal friend of Tyler White) It got my attention right away. Isn’t that the point of the picture? It does it’s job, so why complain?
    Keep in mind it could be worse. She could be topless. To have her top fully clothed or her whole body clothed would seem… odd?

    In conclusion.. I love it all.

  • D

    Dan SteinMar 29, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    You make a good point, Eunice. I say we refrain from educating people about STIs and STDs all together, especially on college campuses. This article should be removed from the Spinnaker at once due to the graphic nature of the truths it reveals in an attempt to educate readers about safe sex. I would be much happier living the rest of my life with a horrible disease than look at this issue of the Spinnaker’s slightly risque cover.

    “Make sure to see documentation of testing that shows that your partner is clean.” You’re right, Eunice. This is exactly the sort of thing that Jesus would smite people for. How dare a school newspaper distribute information to its readers that could save them from life-ending throat cancer?

    Did you even read this article?

    Disclaimer: If you didn’t pick up on it, that was pure sarcasm.