Is there an epidemic of throat cancer in men?




Throat cancer is a disease that very traditionally has been associated with smoking and drinking. But fortunately, the rate of smoking in our society has come down dramatically in the last 30 years. In white men in particular, but also to some extent in women, there’s been a rising rate of cancers of the back of the throat, the area we call the oropharynx, and that is associated with infection with a virus called HPV, human papillomavirus. It’s the same virus that causes cervical cancer in women. It’s the same virus that we now routinely vaccinate against, and when we see oropharyngeal cancer in men nowadays, most of it is due to HPV. The good news is that those cancers are far more responsive to treatment than the smoking related ones, and the rate of us curing those is actually very high.

Professor Michael Boyer is Medical Oncologist at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse

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