Chicago: About 16 million Americans have oral HPV, a sexually transmitted virus more commonly linked with cervical cancer that also can cause mouth cancer, according to the first nationwide estimate.HPV — human papilloma virus — is increasingly recognized as a major cause of oral cancers affecting the back of the tongue and tonsil area. Smoking and heavy drinking are also key causes.Until now, it was not known how many people have oral HPV infections.Overall, 7 percent of Americans aged 14 to 69 are infected, the study found.But the results are not cause for alarm. While mouth cancers are on the rise — probably from oral sex — most people with oral HPV will never develop cancer. And most don`t have the kind most strongly linked to cancer. Also, tests for oral HPV are costly and mainly used in research.Still, experts say the study provides important information for future research that could increase knowledge about who is most at risk for oral cancer and ways to prevent the disease.The nationally representative study is based on 30-second gargle tests given to about 5,500 people in a 2009-10 government health survey. Their mouthwash samples were tested for HPV.The results were published online Thursday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.There are many types of HPV, but one in particular, known as HPV-16, is most strongly linked with oral cancer and also is a common cause of cervical cancer. That form was found in about 1 percent of people studied, translating to about 2 million Americans.
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