Warts Causes Oral Cancer

Each year, nearly 36,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with oral cancer, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation. Tobacco and heavy alcohol use have been identified as significant risk factors for developing oral cancer. Current research suggests that HPV may soon be added to the list of risk factors.

HPV stands for human papillomavirus, and it’s one of the world’s most common virus groups, with more than 100 identified strains. These different strains, spread through various modes of transmission, infect the skin and mucous membranes in different parts of the body.

Plantar warts, flat warts and genital warts are all caused by different strains of HPV. Although they are common wart causes, most HPV strains are relatively harmless. HPV 16 and HPV 18, however, are associated with up to 70 percent of cervical cancers, and may also be linked to oral cancer.

HPV and Oral Cancer Research

A number of recent studies have noted links between oral cancer, HPV, genital warts and oral sex.

Dr. No-Hee Park of the UCLA School of Dentistry found that cells in the mouth are similar in structure to the cells in the vagina and cervix that HPV 16 and HPV 18 attack. Oral cancers that occur in these cells are the same kinds of cancers that develop on the cervix.

In a 2007 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that men and women with more than six oral sex partners were nine times more likely to develop oral cancer of the tonsils or at the base of the tongue.

In another study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (2000), 25 percent of head and neck cancer patients tested positive for HPV, and HPV 16 was found in 90 percent of the HPV positive patients.

Oral Cancer Symptoms

Having HPV, genital warts or an occasional drink doesn’t mean that you’ll develop oral cancer, or even that you’re at high risk for it.

However, because oral cancer is most curable in its early stages, and because good oral hygiene promotes overall health, consider seeing a doctor or a dentist if you notice any of these abnormal symptoms:

  • A sore in your mouth that lasts for more than two weeks
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Numbness in your tongue, jaw or other mouth area
  • Swelling in your jaw
  • Thickening in your cheek
  • White or red patches on your gums, tongue or the lining of your mouth.


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Gillison, M. L., Koch, W. M., Capone, R. B., Spafford, M., Westra, W. H., Wu, L., … Sidransky, D. (2000). Evidence for a causal association between human papillomavirus and a subset of head and neck cancers. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 92(9), 675-7. Retrieved July 12, 2010, from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10793107.

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Oralwarts.net. (2009). Oral warts. Retrieved April 20, 2010, from: http://www.oralwarts.net/.