Bachmann Bait

by Nathan Harden

A new report reveals startling rates of infection with HPV — the most common sexually transmitted disease among teens and adults in their twenties:

A new study showing an estimated 7% of American teens and adults carry the human papillomavirus in their mouths may help health experts finally understand why rates of mouth and throat cancer have been climbing for nearly 25 years. The evidence makes it clear that oral sex practices play a key role in transmission.

The new data, published online Thursday by the Journal of the American Medical Assn., are the first to assess the prevalence of oral HPV infection in the U.S. population. The findings indicate that the virus is not likely to spread through kissing or casual contact and that most cases of oral HPV can be traced to oral sex, which many Americans mistakenly view as a safe practice…

HPV is best known as the cause of cervical cancer, which kills 4,220 women in the U.S. each year, according to the National Cancer Institute. The virus can also cause vulvar, anal, penile and various head and neck cancers. A study published in October in the Journal of Clinical Oncology traced more than 70% of new cases of oral cancers to HPV infection, putting it ahead of tobacco use as the leading cause of such cancers.

If present trends continue, HPV will cause more cases of oral cancers than cervical cancer by 2020, according to the October study.