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A new study has found that too much oral sex could, in fact, lead to an increased risk of mouth and throat cancer.
The study was performed by researchers from Johns Hopkins University and published in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.
The study was designed to observed the correlation between performing fellatio and getting human papillomavirus (HPV) and the results were surprising.
Researchers got 500 people - 163 of whom were HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer patients - to complete a behavioural survey on their sexual activities over many years.
It also looked at each individual's age, number of sexual partners, the age of their 'sexual initiation', and the number of people they performed oral sex on within a small timeframe.
"Our study builds on previous research to demonstrate that it is not only the number of oral sexual partners but also other factors not previously appreciated that contribute to the risk of exposure to HPV orally and subsequent HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer," said Virginia Drake, MD, who conducted the study.
"As the incidence of HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer continues to rise in the United States, our study offers a contemporary evaluation of risk factors for this disease.
"We have uncovered additional nuances of how and why some people may develop this cancer, which may help identify those at greater risk."
The study also noted that those who engaged in oral sex at a younger age had an increased risk of contracting HPV, and that having more than 10 prior oral sex partners was associated with a 4.3-times greater likelihood of having HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer.
"The study also shows that having oral sex at a younger age and more partners in a shorter time period (oral sex intensity) were associated with higher likelihoods of having HPV-related cancer of the mouth and throat," the report on CANCER read.
Previous studies have hypothesised that those who have oral sex prior to having vaginal sex for the first time are also at increased risk. This could be because an initial exposure to HPV via the genitals might cause a 'robust immune response', and those who opt for oral sex prior to engaging in intercourse lack this immune response and are therefore at a higher risk.
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