Oral and oropharyngeal cancers affect the mouth and the area behind the mouth – the oropharynx. Often, dentists and dental hygienists are the first to detect oral cancers because they cause visible lesions in the mouth. Oropharyngeal cancers, however, are harder to detect because they originate in the epithelium at the back of the tongue or in the tonsils – areas less visible to the naked eye. While alcohol and tobacco use are common causes of oral cancers, the human papillomavirus or HPV is a common cause of oropharyngeal cancers.
What is the HPV vaccine?
The HPV vaccine was developed in 2006 and targeted four types of cancer-causing HPV. In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration approved a version of the vaccine that targets five additional types of the virus. Vaccination prior to exposure to HPV can prevent more than 90 percent of HPV-related cancer cases from developing. In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration expanded the recommended use of the HPV vaccine to include men and women aged 27 to 45. It previously was only approved for people aged nine to 26.
How does the HPV vaccine prevent against oropharyngeal cancers?
The HPV vaccine was originally intended to prevent against cervical cancer in women, so drug manufacturers are not legally allowed to market the vaccine for treatment against other cancers caused by the virus. However, the vaccine targets a number of different strains of the virus beyond the ones that typically cause cervical cancer. The Centers for Disease Control recommends getting the HPV vaccine in order to prevent other cancers caused by the virus including oropharyngeal cancers. Make sure your child gets the vaccine and consider it for yourself.
Why Pace Dental?
At Pace Dental, we are invested in our patients’ whole body health. We screen for oral cancers and educate our clients about how the HPV vaccine can prevent oropharyngeal cancers. Give us a call today to talk about getting an HPV vaccination.