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People who have had 10 or more oral sex partners were found to be 4.3 times more likely to develop human papillomavirus-related mouth and throat cancer, according to new research.
Scientists from Johns Hopkins University also found that having oral sex at a younger age — and with more partners — also increases the risk for the cancers caused by HPV.
“Our research helps patients and physicians answer the question of, ‘Why did I develop HPV-related … cancer,” study co-author Dr. Virginia Drake told UPI.
“Risk of infection is not solely related to number of lifetime oral sex partners, as timing of oral sex and type of partner also play a role,” said Drake, a head and neck surgeon at Johns Hopkins.
In the US, just over 7 percent of all adults age 18 to 69 have HPV, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 45,000 people — 55 percent of them women — are diagnosed with HPV-related cancers each year, the CDC estimates.
The team at the Baltimore hospital surveyed 163 adults with HPV-related mouth and throat cancers — and 345 without these diseases — on their sexual behaviors.
Having oral sex as an adolescent or teen raised one’s risk for the cancers by 80 percent, the researchers said. Starting younger and having more partners increased the risk by 180 percent, they added.
Meanwhile, people who had older sexual partners when they were young and those with partners who had extramarital sex were up to 70 percent more likely to have the disease, according to the data cited by UPI.
“People with HPV-associated … cancer have a wide spectrum of sexual histories,” Drake said.
“As with all STDs, having new partners introduces some risk for infection, but most people who become infected clear the infection without developing cancer,” she added.
In a statement, she said: “As the incidence of HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer continues to rise in the United States, our study offers a contemporary evaluation of risk factors for this disease.
“We have uncovered additional nuances of how and why some people may develop this cancer, which may help identify those at greater risk,” Drake added.
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