Higher cancer risk for single male smokers

New research published in The Lancet has found that men who smoke and are not married or living with a partner are at a higher risk of developing Human Papillomavirus (HPV); a primary cause of mouth cancer.

Smoking is still considered to be one of the major causes of mouth cancer. It has been found that over half of current smokers will eventually die of a tobacco-related illness.

The study included a total of 1,626 men from Brazil, Mexico and the USA. During the first 12 months of observations, nearly 4.5% of men acquired an oral HPV infection. Less than 1% of men had an HPV16 infection – the most commonly acquired typeg – and less than 2% had a cancer-causing type of oral HPV.

Chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, said: 'In the UK around one in five cases of oral cancer are predicted to be as a result of HPV, yet our awareness and understanding of the virus is alarmingly low. Cases of mouth cancer have doubled in the last 30 years, coinciding with the rise of HPV, and strengthen the argument that there is not enough awareness of the risks we take when we have sex.

'The HPV vaccination of young men has already started in Australia and the British Dental Health Foundation is calling for the same to happen in the UK. A wealth of evidence and opinion in the USA suggests a population-wide HPV vaccination programme is now the best solution – for general public health and financial reasons. It is a debate that needs to be opened again here in the UK, as part of the on-going debate about the health and well-being of young people.

'As a result it is really important that everyone knows the warning signs for mouth cancer. They include ulcers which do not heal within three weeks, red and white patches in the mouth and unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth. Our message to everyone is simple: if in doubt, get checked out.'

For more information on the study visit: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2813%2960809-0/abstract.

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