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Monday, January 17, 2011

Is Oral Sex Safe?


I watched this programme on BBC iPlayer recently ( Unfortunately, the video can be viewed with UK internet IP only.

As we know, oral cancer is mostly caused by smoking or drinking ( tobacco & alcohol). Apart from that, there is an increasing trend show that oral sex, a dangerous pleasure contributes to oral cancer as well. This is caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted.

HPV is the causative agent of cervical cancer in women, and it can be prevented through vaccination. Compare with cervical cancer, HPV-related oral cancer is relatively rare at the moment, but we can't deny its future impact and it is estimated that 80% of the adult population carrying it without having any symptoms in their lives (note: the virus in one's body is not necessarily develop into cancer).   

Intriguingly, the risk of getting HPV-related oral cancer is 5 times higher in men than women (according to the interview session in the BBC’s video). A thought provoking question arose in this video was:”since men has high chance of getting HPV-related cancer, why don’t the government offers vaccination programme to boys as well, considering a cost of getting a HPV jab is extremely expensive (~£300-400 for the jab)?”

Although I don’t know the status of HPV vaccination programme in the country, but certainly I will encourage my female friends to get a HPV vaccination if it is affordable, ( if not, I think a regular smear test is worth doing).

I like an interesting quote by a doctor in the video :” if you are afford to get a jab, why don’t go for it? instead of saving the money for the hand bag of the season :)

Bear in mind that "Health is the greatest wealth".

Summary of the video mentioned above is as follow:-

Darren was diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer, a rare form of mouth cancer, at the age of only 31. But that wasn't the only shocking news that he had to deal with. Most oral cancers are caused by smoking or drinking, but Darren's was caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted. Darren had caught it through having oral sex. New research shows that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of HPV-related oral cancers amongst young people.

Jaime Winstone sets out to discover why the statistics are rising and whether anything can be done to stop this trend. Sadly, she has an intimate relationship with cancer - as filming began, her close friend Paul died from pancreatic cancer aged only 26. Whilst his cancer wasn't preventable, Darren's was.
HPV is recognised as the cause of cervical cancer in women and so, two years ago, the government introduced a national vaccination programme for teenage girls. But if a vaccine exists, why isn't it also given to boys to protect them from developing HPV-related cancers? Although this oral cancer is still relatively rare, the HP virus is common, with an estimated 80 per cent of adults having it, without any symptoms, during their lives.

Jaime's journey takes her to meet Dr Margaret Stanley, an expert on HPV and Professor Hisham Mehanna, a head and neck specialist at University Hospital, Coventry whose research has shown an increase in HPV-related oral cancers. Jaime talks to teenage boys about what they know of HPV and to teenage girls about why they are reluctant to get the freely available vaccine, before confronting the Department of Health over why they currently don't vaccinate boys as well as girls on the NHS.

Part of the Dangerous Pleasures season on BBC Three.

1 comment:

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