One third of people diagnosed with throat cancer are infected with a form of the HPV virus, a study suggests.
HPV (human papillomavirus) is the major cause of cervical cancer, and the virus is known to spread through genital or oral contact.
Actor Michael Douglas is reported to have spoken about the link after his own diagnosis with throat cancer.
Experts said this study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, which quantifies the link, showed “striking” results.
There are more than 100 types of HPV. Most people will be infected with HPV at some point, but in most the immune system will offer protection.
There are two HPV strains which are most likely to cause cancer – HPV-16 and HPV-18.
HPV-16 is thought to be responsible for around 60% of cervical cancers, 80% of cancers in the anus and 60% of oral cancers.
Around 1,500 people are diagnosed with throat cancers each year in the UK, with around 470 people dying from the disease.
This study looked at HPV’s link with cancer of the back of the throat – oropharyngeal cancer.
It looked at blood test results collected from people who took part in a huge prospective study into lifestyle and cancer, who were all healthy at the start.
Everyone gives a blood sample when they join the study, and in this case the researchers were able to check for the presence of antibodies to one of HPV’s key proteins – E6.
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