Sexually transmitted oral cancers could be detected by blood test

Sexually transmitted oral cancers could be detected by blood test
Published: 2013 June 18 10:24:20 (6403 Views)
Antibodies to a high-risk type of a virus that causes mouth and throat cancers when transmitted via oral sex can be detected in blood tests many years before onset of the disease, according to a World Health Organisation-led team of researchers.

In a study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the researchers said their findings may in future lead to people being screened for human papillomavirus (HPV) antibodies, giving doctors a chance to find those at high risk of oral cancers.

"Up to now, it was not known whether these antibodies were present in blood before the cancer became clinically detectable," said Paul Brennan, of the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), who led the study and described the findings as "very encouraging".

"If these results are confirmed, future screening tools could be developed for early detection of the disease," he said.

While HPV is better known for causing cervical and other genital cancers, it is also responsible for an increasing number of cancers of the mouth and throat, particularly amongst men.



The issue was highlighted earlier this month by Hollywood actor Michael Douglas, who said his throat cancer was caused by HPV transmitted through oral sex.

Oral, head and neck cancers are traditionally associated with heavy smoking and alcohol consumption, but over the past few decades rates of the diseases have increased dramatically, especially in Europe and North America.

According to IARC data, about 30 percent of all oral cancers are estimated to be HPV-related, and the main type of HPV associated with these tumours is HPV16.

Two vaccines - Cervarix, made by GlaxoSmithKline, and Gardasil, made by Merck & Co - can prevent HPV.

This new study, by scientists from IARC as well as the German Cancer Research Center and the U.S. National Cancer Institute, used data from a large study known as EPIC, which involves 500,000 people from 10 European countries who were recruited in the 1990s and have been followed up since.



Source - Reuters

Tags: HPV,
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