The human papilloma virus (HPV).

With rates of oral cancer on the rise among men in a number of western countries, a leading researcher has recommended that boys be vaccinated against the human papilloma virus (HPV).

Research suggests that the increase in cases may in large part be due to more people engaging in oral sex more often since the early 1970’s.

There has been a 225% increase in oral cancer cases in the US from 1974 to 2007, said Dr Maura Gillison, of Ohio State University.

While smoking and drinking were previously the biggest causes of oral cancers in countries such as the US, the leading cause, especially among white men, is now HPV.

Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference, Gillison said that “the single greatest factor is the number of partners on whom the person has performed oral sex. When the number of partners increases, the risk increases.”

HPV is believed to also cause cancers of the anus and penis in men and in the cervix, vulva, vagina and anus in women.

Vaccines are available that provide some protection against HPV-caused genital warts and anal cancer and may also protect against oral cancer caused by HPV.

Men who participate in receptive anal intercourse have much higher rates of anal cancer, leading many specialists to recommend that gay men have regular anal pap smears and be vaccinated against HPV.

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