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HPV linked to one in three throat cancers

HPV infection significantly increases the risk of throat cancer, a study has revealed. 

By comparing blood samples from over 900 patients, researchers from the University of Oxford found that more than a third of people who had oropharyngeal cancers (at the back of the throat) also carried antibodies for the HPV virus. 

The antibodies could be detected in patient's blood even in samples taken over 10 years before cancer was diagnosed. 

However, less than 1% of people without cancer carry antibodies for the Human papillomavirus (HPV) in their blood. 

The study, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, concluded that patients with oropharyngeal cancers linked to the HPV infection were more likely to survive than those whose cancer was not related to the infection. 

Dr Ruth Travis, one of the authors of the study and Cancer Research UK scientist at the University of Oxford, said: “These striking results provide some evidence that HPV16 infection may be a significant cause of oropharyngeal cancer.”

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK's director of health information, said: “If the HPV vaccine can also protect against oral HPV infections and cancers, then it could have a broader potential protective effect, but we don't have enough research yet to tell us.” 

A recent study published in Sexually Transmitted Infections suggested that men who have sex with men (MSM) should be offered the HPV vaccine because they have an increased risk of catching genital cancers. 

Antibodies are proteins used by the immune system to identify and neutralise bacteria and viruses.