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Sex, Drugs, and Cancer?

Certain head and neck cancers may be tied to sexual
activity,
marijuana use, and human papillomavirus (HPV ) type
16.

That news comes from Johns Hopkins University's Maura Gillison, MD, PhD, and
colleagues, who studied 240 people with head and neck squamous cell carcinomas
(head and neck cancers). Some of their cancers tested positive for HPV 16;
others were negative for HPV 16.

The patients answered questions about their lifestyle. For comparison, 322
cancer -free people answered the same
lifestyle questions.

Here's what the researchers learned:


  • Head and neck cancers that were positive for HPV 16 were associated with
    having more oral sex partners and
    smoking more marijuana.

  • Head and neck cancers that were negative for HPV 16 weren't linked to sex
    or marijuana. Instead, they were tied to smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol, and
    having poor oral hygiene.


Because the study was observational, it's not clear if those risk factors
caused cancer.

Based on the findings, Gillison's team argues that HPV 16-negative and HPV
16-positive head and neck squamous cell carcinomas should be considered two
different types of cancer.

The study appears in today's advance online edition of the Journal of the
National Cancer Institute
.

By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Louise Chang
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