Is Valentine's Day and Sex to Blame for an Increase in Oral Cancer?


Whether you’re loved up or single and ready to mingle, there's no getting away from the fact that Valentine's Day is just around the corner. And with the most romantic day of the year comes a rise in passion and increased sexual activity.


Whether you’re out for a romantic dinner and wine with a loved one, or a night out on the town with friends, often our inhibitions are forgotten and in the heat of the moment – contraception – is the last thing on your mind. However, London Hygienist warns that it's not just STIs and STDs you need to be worried about when enjoying yourself this valentines day.


You may wonder what sex has got to do with a dentist, but there is an increasing amount of evidence showcasing a link between Human Papilomavirus (HPV) and oral cancer. And shockingly almost all younger patients diagnosed with oral cancer have contracted it from HPV. Valentine's Day is the one-day of the year we see a spike in sexual activity and therefore also when there is an increased risk of people contracting HPV.


The main risks associated with mouth and throat cancer remain drinking alcohol, smoking or chewing tobacco. However, there is a growing amount of evidence that an increasing proportion of cancer is caused by a HPV infection in the mouth. London Hygienist warns that HPV is due to supersede alcohol and smoking as a risk associated with oral cancer


Around 1 in 4 mouth cancers and 1 in 3 throat cancers are HPV related, but in younger patients most throat cancers are now HPV-related[1].


About HPV

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a viral infection that s passed between people through skin to skin contact – there are more than 100 varieties, of which, more than 40 are passed through sexual contact and can affect your genitals, mouth or throat. And without the right precautions, they are easy to catch. You don’t need to actually have penetrative sex to catch it.


You can get HPV from:

  • Any skin-to-skin contact of the genital area

  • Vaginal, anal or oral sex

  • Sharing sex toys

HPV has no symptoms, so you may not know if you have it and it is very common infact, the majority of people will get some type of HPV in their life. For women HPV testing is part of cervical screening but there is no blood test for HPV. So, if you are worried, make sure you consult your GP for medical advice.


This isn’t something to just pretend isn’t happening. There are stark facts out there about the rise of mouth cancer, especially in young people, caused by the HPV virus. People just need to be aware and when engaging in sexual activity, just make sure you are taking the right precautions. If you’re worried about HPV, ensure you consult your GP and continue to see your dentist and dental hygienist on a regular basis.


Worried about oral cancer? London Hygienist scribes the warning signs and things to watch out for:

  • Red, or red and white, patches on your tongue or the lining of your mouth

  • Ulcers that do not heal after 3 weeks

  • Aswelling in your mouth that lasts for more than 3 weeks

  • Pain when swallowing

  • A feeling as though something's stuck in your throat

Visit your dentist at least once a year and your hygienist at least twice a year for routine dental check-ups, cleanings and oral screenings.

[1] https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sexual-health/can-oral-sex-give-you-cancer/