The human papilloma virus (HPV) is a double-stranded DNA virus that infects the epithelial cells of skin and mucosa. The moist epithelial surfaces (squamous cells) include all areas covered by skin and/or mucosa such as the mouth interior, throat, tongue, tonsils, vagina, cervix, vulva, penis (the urethra – the opening), and anus.
Transmission of the virus occurs when these areas come into contact with a virus, allowing it to transfer between epithelial cells. While it is established now that sexual contacts, both conventional and oral, are means of transferring the HPV virus through direct skin to skin contact, it is still poorly understood what other transfer pathways may exist.
Relation of HPV to oral cancer
The leading cause of oropharyngeal cancer is from HPV, a very small number of oral cavity cancers also occur from HPV. The HPV family contains almost 200 strains. Approximately 15 of the total 200 strains cause cancer, but the main ones are the 16 and 18 which cause 70% of cases of cervical cancer and nearly 90% of the cancers of the anus, the tonsils, the base of the tongue and the oropharynx, which are found to be the main cause.
Cancers of the head and neck occur:
- Sinuses (sinuses)
- Nasal cavity
- Oral cavity
- Salivary gland
Cigarettes and alcohol cause most cancers in the frontal part of the mouth (e.g. in the oral cavity, the oropharynx, the hypopharynx, larynx)
HPV is mainly responsible for cancers in the back area of the mouth (such as the tonsils, the base of the tongue). This difference occurs,because the mucosa of the mouth in the back is different from the frontal and it facilitates the entry of the virus into the basal layer of the epithelium.
- Persistent hoarseness.
- Persistent sore throat.
- Persistent pain or difficulty chewing and swallowing.
- Feeling a “knot” in the throat.
- Wounds in the mouth that don’t heal.
- Vaccination for HPV, if someone is in the appropriate age.
- Stop smoking and reduce to a minimum the consumption of alcohol.
- Limitation of alternate sexual partners and sex with precautions.
- Immediate visit to a doctor in case of suspicious symptoms.