Monday, July 9, 2018

Study from Canada Indicates HPV Tests More Effective at Discovering Precancerous Cells in Women than Pap Smear

As someone who is a huge advocate for routine screening of patients for oral cancer, I was excited to see this report from the British Columbia Cancer Agency.  The study performed, to simplify things, shows that testing for HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) is more accurate than the age old system of Pap which basically attempts to screen for abnormal cells which may, at some point in the future, grow into cancerous cells.  This, screening for women routinely for HPV is a better diagnostic indicator of a potential for cancer in the future than the traditional PAP.
It has become well documented in medical literature in the past few years that one of the principle causes, if not the *main* precipitating cause of cervical cancer is HPV.  This also leads to the fact that the demographics of Oral and Pharyngeal Cancers in humans are now demonstrating that the leading cause of oral and pharyngeal cancers ini humans is HPV16, especially in men.  As HPV16 proliferates, it is leading to more and more cancer cases… especially in men.
Until the last 15 years or so it appeared that oral cancers in men were related to age and contributory factors such as alcohol and smoking.  Now however, the age where cancer appears is no longer in older men, but in males in their 20s.  Theories are that the HPV infection in women are leading to infection of men which then contributes to increasing rates of oral and pharyngeal cancers in young males. The incidence rates are now such that oral and pharyngeal cancers in men are making it a disease of “young men” instead of the over 40 or 50 age group.
The other awful part of this change in the demographics is that these cancers are not always easy for patients to self detect as well as the simple fact that when caught in later stages, the treatments can be horribly disfiguring.  Anything that can lead to earlier detection, is a plus.  Studies such as this one can only improve clinical outcomes.

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