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It’s Going Down For Real

Working at the Sexology Institute has given me the opportunity to meet and speak with so many people. We have the pleasure of serving people from all walks of life. We have people of all different races, ethnic groups, sexual orientations, religions, economic conditions and sexual experiences visit our little slice of heaven. As an educator, I feel responsible for helping and teaching people, but many times I am the one being schooled.

Recently, I met a dentist from out of town who screens for oral cancers. She also visits her local high schools to talk about sexually transmitted infections (STI) and their connection to the rise of oral cancers in young people. She recited several statistics, so I immediately went home to do some research on my own. I visited the CDC and the Oral Cancer Foundation websites and compiled some information, so I could wrap my head around this new learning.

Oral cancer used to be associated with older people who were longtime smokers. Today, we are seeing an increase of young, nonsmokers being diagnosed with oral cancer. According to the CDC, it is estimated that the human papillomavirus (HPV) is responsible for 9,000 new oral cancer diagnoses each year. While only about 7% of the population is infected with oral HPV, and only 1% of those end up with cancer here are some things you need to know,

  • HPV is the fasted spreading sexually transmitted infection (STI).

  • There are over 200 strains of HPV and most are harmless.

  • There are about 16 strains of the virus that can cause cancers.

  • HPV can cause cervical cancer, penile cancer and oral cancer.

  • On any given day, 26,000,000 Americans can have and HPV infection.

  • Approximately 12,000 young people (15-24 year olds) are infected with HPV every day.

Proper use of condoms can help prevent infections and early detection of cancers aid in treatment, but condoms cannot cover the entire infected area. Like all STIs, risk increases as the number of partners increase. There are HPV vaccines for young men and women that are available to aid in preventing the spread of HPV.

I hate to admit this, but I was skeptical of the vaccine because I was hearing about some terrible side effects. Therefore, I did not have my children vaccinated. I hope I am not too late. At one point actor Michael Douglas admitted that his oral cancer may have been caused from performing oral sex, but later rescinded this admission to save his wife embarrassment. (Props to him for trying to protect her!) We can all pretend that our children are never going to become one of the statistics, but do we bet their lives on it?


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