Oral HPV Infection Is Common

Richard T. Ellison III, MD


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In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Such infection — associated with a form of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma — is present in 6.9% of the U.S. population aged 14 to 69.


Although the incidence of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas linked to alcohol and tobacco use has been declining in the U.S., the incidence of such cancers linked to human papillomavirus (HPV) — primarily HPV type 16 — is increasing. Now, researchers have reported the results of the first population-based study of oral HPV prevalence in the U.S.

As part of the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey performed in 2009 and 2010, individuals aged 14 to 69 were questioned about their sexual behaviors. They were also asked to perform a 30-second oral rinse to provide samples for HPV DNA polymerase chain reaction and type-specific hybridization.

Among 5501 participants, the prevalence of oral HPV infection was 6.9% overall (3.7% for high-risk HPV types, 1.0% for HPV-16). Prevalence showed a bimodal pattern by age, with a small peak for individuals aged 30 to 34 and a larger peak for those aged 60 to 64. The rate was higher for men than for women (10.1% vs. 3.6%; P<0.001), and for participants who reported ever having had sex than for those who reported having had no sexual activity (7.5% vs. 0.9%; P<0.001). In multivariate analyses, risk for oral HPV infection was associated with age, gender, lifetime number of sexual partners, and current smoking (including intensity).


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