December 12, 2017 – No Worries


Anchor lead: Should you worry about being infected with human papilloma virus? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Should people who are infected with human papilloma virus, or HPV, be worried about their risk of mouth and throat cancers, as a recent study reveals just how common infection is? No, says Carole Fahkry, a head and neck surgeon and HPV expert at Johns Hopkins.

Fahkry: Overall, levels of oral HPV infection are actually very low in the population. The behaviors which put individuals at risk for infection are exceedingly common, yet the infection is rare. And when you look at the cancer that’s associated with infection it’s even more rare, and so I don’t think that worry is justified necessarily. Most people are exposed, very few go on to get the infection, and even fewer go on to get cancer. Both boys and girls should be vaccinated, that way we can decrease exposure to infection for everyone. :33

Fahkry notes that vaccination should reduce both cervical cancers and head and neck cancers over time, and that smoking is also a well known risk factor for head and neck cancers that acts in addition to HPV to increase risk. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.