The Oral Systemic Link between HPV Infections and Cancer
It used to be oral cancer was attributed primarily to tobacco users, but an oral systemic link has been established indicating at least 3% of the U.S. population had one or more oncogenic HPV types present in their saliva. A recent case-control study also indicated there would be a 4.7% reduction in head and neck cancer if the oncogenic HPV infection could just be prevented. What does this mean in layman terms? If it’s not just tobacco users at risk for this cancer, where do you stand?
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that’s able to establish infections only within skin or mucous membranes. While the majority of the nearly 200 known types of HPV cause no symptoms, some types can cause cancers of the head and neck (tongue, tonsils and throat). The problem is that most normal cells undergo a programmed form of death, but activated oncogenes (a gene with the potential to cause cancer) can cause those cells that ought to die to survive and proliferate instead. Symptoms indicating oral cancer may or may not be visible to the naked eye. If you notice lesions or warts on your tongue, soft palate, or tonsils, one of the possible causes is infection with HPV. It is important to discover precisely which type of HPV you carry.
The oral lesions associated with HPV are not part of the typical picture of gum disease. Be sure to bring to the attention of our professional dental team any lesions you notice in your mouth or on your tongue. Early detection and identification of the presence or absence of oral HPV is important, remembering too that early HPV infections do not typically cause any clinical signs or symptoms. This is why regular clinical testing provided by your dentist is so important.
Our Smile for Life Dental clinic provides a non-invasive, easy-to-use screening tool to identify the type(s) of oral HPV that could potentially lead to oral cancer. It only requires the patient to vigorously swish a sterile saline solution for 30 seconds. After being expectorated into a funneled collection tube, it can be sent for analysis. This valuable test allows our clinician to establish if you have an increased risk for oral cancer and through our oral systemic link system, determine if medical monitoring would be recommended. Be proactive about protecting your health by calling Dr. Lodding today!