Oral sex is a fun way to get intimate with a person, whether you're in a monogamous relationship or not, but for those people — specifically, men — who engage in the sex act with multiple partners, there's a higher risk of contracting serious illnesses.
According to a new study published in Annals of Oncology journal, men who engage in oral sex with a high number of partners could increase their risk of head and neck cancer.
The study, published by scientists at John Hopkins University, looked at the health data of more than 13,000 people who had been tested for oral human papillomavirus infection (HPV) aged 20-69 between the years 2009 and 2014. Specifically, they explored the rise of HPV and related oropharyngeal cancer to see who was most at risk.
Most people perform oral sex in their lives, and we found that oral infection with cancer-causing HPV was rare among women regardless of how many oral sex partners they had.
The authors found that while the risk of oral cancers is low among that group of people, it was actually more than double for men who have many oral sex partners. Specifically, men who had five or more oral sex partners during their lifetime were at "medium risk" (7.4 per cent) of contracting head and neck cancer, while men who had oral sex with one or no partners had a low risk of 1.5 per cent. Those who had two to four oral sex partners had a risk of four per cent and those who had more than five oral sex partners and also smoked had a 15 per cent risk.
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"Most people perform oral sex in their lives, and we found that oral infection with cancer-causing HPV was rare among women regardless of how many oral sex partners they had," noted study author Dr. Amber D'Souza, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "Among men who did not smoke, cancer-causing oral HPV was rare among everyone who had less than five oral sex partners, although the chances of having oral HPV infection did increase with number of oral sexual partners, and with smoking."
Among men who did not smoke, cancer-causing oral HPV was rare among everyone who had less than five oral sex partners.
However, study co-author Dr. Carole Fakhry noted in a statement that there are no tests to screen for oropharyngeal cancer, adding that "it is a rare cancer and for most healthy people the harms of screening for it would outweigh the benefits because of the problem of false positive test results and consequent anxiety."
While oral sex is fun, it still comes with the risk of passing on infections. According to Health24, HIV can be passed on from oral sex, whether you're giving or receiving. Those who have bleeding gums, gum disease, and sores in the mouth can make it easier to get infected, and to pass on infection of HIV through oral sex.
And though there's less risk of getting STIs from oral sex than vaginal or anal sex, the fact that a risk still exists should make you consider how to have oral sex safely. Infections such as chlamydia, syphilis, or gonorrhea in your mouth can be given to a partner through oral sex, as well as herpes and HIV through cuts in the mouth or small abrasions, notes the Palo Alto Medical Foundation.
Though there's less risk of getting STIs from oral sex than vaginal or anal sex, the fact that a risk still exists should make you consider how to have oral sex safely.
This is why it's imperative you do not have oral sex if either you or your partner is on treatment for an STI or is showing symptoms.
Even if it seems safe, you should still use a barrier method to prevent direct contact between a partner's mouth and the other partner's genitals. Some methods include plastic wrap, dental dams, latex barriers, and condoms.