Medical researchers in the United States have found “strong evidence” linking oral sex to oral cancer, mostly in young, white men. The suspected culprit is the human papillomavirus (HPV), more specifically, one of the 40 varieties of HPV that are sexually transmitted. Researchers noted a 225% increase in oral cancer cases in the US from 1974 to 2007, mainly in white men.
“When you compare people who have an oral infection of not… the single greatest factor is the number of partners on who the person has performed oral sex,” Maura Gillison of Ohio State University told Agence France-Presse. Earlier studies suggest that people who have performed oral sex on at last six partners in their lives are eight times more likely to develop HPV-related head or neck cancer than those who have had fewer than six partners. “When the number of partners increases, the risk increases,” Gillison said. “The rise in oral cancer in the US is predominantly among young white males and we do not know the answer as to why.”
It is something of an urban legend that black men do not perform oral sex. Gary Oldman and Samuel L. Jackson famously demonstrated this stereotype in Tony Scott’s 1993 classic True Romance. But there is no scientific evidence to support this theory, just as there is no proof that this explains the prevalence of oral cancer in white men who perform cunnilingus. The “black men don’t eat pussy” hypothesis also completely fails to take into account homosexual transmission of HPV.
It’s not even certain that oral sex definitely causes cancer. Research on links between the two lags far behind the study of the link between HPV and cervical cancer, which has been proven for some time now. “We can’t demonstrate definitively that certain behaviors are associated with the risk of acquiring an infection,” Gillison said.
Still, the new evidence is very compelling and warrants further research, since half of all sexually active Americans will get HPV at some point in their lives.