Mr Ahmed Ismail

Consultant Gynaecologist & Fertility Expert

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV): No Laughing Matter


A vital area of public health was brought to the fore this week when actor Michael Douglas (above) disclosed that human papilloma virus (HPV), transmitted through oral sex, allegedly caused his stage four throat cancer. HPV is a sexually-transmitted disease that significantly increases the risk of cervical cancer in women and causes between 25-34 percent of oral cancers in women and men (HPV-related oral cancers are most common in heterosexual men in their 40s and 50s).

According to the National Cancer Institute, South Carolina ranks ninth in the nation for estimated deaths from cervical cancer, and Sellers’ legislation, a common sense preventative approach that still leaves the decision to get the vaccine for their children up to parents, aims to change that number.

“One thing that I want everyone to understand is that the cost of someone who actually gets cervical cancer when it could have been prevented at an early age is draining. It’s a cost that everyone in the community has to bear,” Sellers has said. “In no way is it mandatory or in no way is it making parents go and get the vaccine.”

A report released in January in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute shows that while overall cancer death rates are down, there are two increasingly prevalent causes of cancer: obesity and HPV. One of the more surprising parts of the study was its examination of the rate of HPV immunizations in American girls. Immunization numbers are far lower than the government’s targets: in 2010, less than half of American girls aged thirteen to seventeen had received at least one dose of the vaccine, while a paltry 32 precent had received all three recommended doses. In comparison, the United Kingdom and Australia both boasted immunization rates of more than 70 percent.

Approximately 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. About 14 million people become newly infected each year. HPV is so common that nearly all sexually-active men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives. This is true even for people who only have sex with one person in their lifetime.

  • Some types of sexually transmitted human papillomaviruses (HPVs) can cause genital warts. Other types, called high-risk or oncogenic HPVs, can cause cancer.
  • High-risk HPVs cause virtually all cervical cancers. They also cause most anal cancers and some vaginal, vulvar, penile, and oropharyngeal cancers.
  • Most infections with high-risk HPVs do not cause cancer. Many HPV infections go away on their own within 1 to 2 years. However, infections that last for many years increase a person’s risk of developing cancer.

Which cancers are caused by HPVs?

Virtually all cervical cancers are caused by HPV infections, with just two HPV types, 16 and 18, responsible for about 70 percent of all cases. HPV also causes anal cancer, with about 85 percent of all cases caused by HPV-16. HPV types 16 and 18 have also been found to cause close to half of vaginal, vulvar, and penile cancers.

Most recently, HPV infections have been found to cause cancer of the oropharynx, which is the middle part of the throat including the soft palate, the base of the tongue, and the tonsils. In the United States, more than half of the cancers diagnosed in the oropharynx are linked to HPV-16

The incidence of HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer has increased during the past 20 years, especially among men. It has been estimated that, by 2020, HPV will cause more oropharyngeal cancers than cervical cancers in the United States.

Other factors may increase the risk of developing cancer following a high-risk HPV infection

These other factors include the following:

  • Smoking
  • Having a weakened immune system
  • Having many children (for increased risk of cervical cancer)
  • Long-term oral contraceptive use (for increased risk of cervical cancer)
  • Poor oral hygiene (for increased risk of oropharyngeal cancer)
  • Chronic inflammation

Queensway Clinic and the Gyanecologists are urging all our patients and all potential patients to come forward and to be sensible regarding preventing one of the most serious silent killer HPV virus.

For Appointment:

Contact: Queensway Clinic on 0207 935 55 40 and Book Vaccine Protection.


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