[Question #3854] receiving oral sex, hpv risk?

33 months ago
Am I at risk if I received oral sex from a woman who has hpv-16? This was only once. I did not perform oral sex or any other activities to her. 
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
33 months ago
Welcome back to the Forum.  I note that this is your 4th HPV directed question in the past 2 months and that Dr. Handsfield has warned you about repeated, anxiety-driven questions.  You current question is slightly (but not very) different from your earlier questions and suggests that you continue to overthink the health importance of HPV and its associate with cancer as a VEY RARE outcome of HPV infection.  Thus, while I will answer your question, my answers will be limited and I will repeat Dr. Handsfield's warnings about your excessive concerns related to HPV infection. 

In an earlier post Dr. Handsfield said "...getting genital HPV is normal and essentially unavoidable with normal human sexuality; almost everybody gets it, often several times. Fortunately, most infections, even with the highest risk types like HPV 16 and 18, never progress to cancer or even pre-cancer and are cleared by the immune system. All young persons should be vaccinated, which is 100% effective against the 9 types in the vaccine, which together comprise about 90% of all HPV infections that will cause cancer or warts; women should follow standard pap smear recommendations; and beyond that, most people should more or less forget about HPV. Even the most common HPV related cancers are rare compared with common cancers like lung, colon, breast, prostate, etc."  This statement is all the more true for oral HPV infections.  They are far less common than genital infections, rarely progress to cancer (particularly in non-smokers, smoking being the major co-factor for oral cancers), have no recommended test, and should not be a concern other than to have regular dental examinations at which times dentists will evaluate you for signs of pre-cancerous lesions and other oral pathology.

You do not know that your partner had oral HPV-16 (she probably does not, even if she has genital infection) and transmission through oral sex is, in general, a less efficient process than through genital infection.  A single receipt of oral sex is unlikely to lead to HPV acquisition and even if it does, the infection is likely to be of no lasting consequence to you or to future sexual partners (who, like you, should have been vaccinated).  EWH
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33 months ago
Thanks for that, it makes sense. If a person (man or woman) tests negative for HPV-16 and they previously had tested positive, is that virus cleared for all intents and purposes and is not transferable to another partner? Thank you
33 months ago
I might add that it seems hpv is everywhere from everything I’m learning and that it’s normal consequence of sex as you both have stated. If I’m understanding everything correctly, there’s no need to worry about getting it as it seems inevitable since I was one of those who grew up without the understanding or exposure to the vaccine. I have since worried about being a carrier of it and giving to to someone else and causing them harm, but it seems I would not be irresponsible to assume that I’m no more of a risk for them than if they were in a relationship with someone else? And that if someone maintains their normal obgyn appointments, nothing should be an issue? Thanks again 
33 months ago
And for me, the confusion was understanding that hpv clears, but could also come back and if that happened later in life and spread to someone. Yet I suppose there’s nothing to be done for that and chances of that occurring  are minimal? 
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
33 months ago
Thanks for your follow-up questions.  There are three comments.  I will deal with each separately:

First comment:  There are no recommended tests for HPV in men and the meaning of a negative test is unknown.  If the virus is present and has cleared, we presume tha5t it is no longer transmissible to others.

Second comment.  Statements are correct. 

Third comment.  This is correct as well.  Nearly all HPV does clear.  When it does, it can occasionally (but not often) come back.  Factors associated with recurrence are immunosuppression such as cancer chemotherapy.  When it does recur, it could conceivable be spread to others but that would not change the risks or concerns from a situation such as when it was first acquired.  Chances of this occurring for most people, as you state, are minimal.

Finally, you have never responded to our multiple suggestions that you take the HPV vaccine.  It is highly effective and given the level of your concerns, being vaccinated with a safe, highly effective vaccine would be reassuring.  EWH
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33 months ago
I am pursuing the hpv vaccine on your reccommendation. Your answers are very helpful. If I did have hpv, I’m not worried about it clearing at this point based upon what I’ve learned from you. My last concern I guess is for the virus returning/re-emerging. I enjoy a few beers, coffee and I often work too hard, I’m concerned that if I reduce my immune function too much it would return. Is that not really a concern? If I’m understanding you correctly it really only does that in extreme examples like chemo and reemergence/reactivation is very rare? Thank you. 
33 months ago
Or said another way, if I have a few too many drinks over a long weekend or vacation and I’m hungover, that wouldn’t be enough to weaken immune function enough to cause reemergence such as chemo could? 
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
33 months ago
I'm pleased to hear that you are pursuing the vaccine.  

Regarding your immune function, let me first point out that this is a "what if" question which does not serve you well.  An evening of drinking or evening drinking on a regular basis should not be a problem.  The sort of immune function problems associated with the reactivation I mentioned are things like cancer chemotherapy or advances, severe illnesses like HIV.  Even then, reactivation would be rare. 

As  you know, this is my 3rd response to your questions. Thus, as per forum guidelines,  this thread will be closed later today.  I trust you will not need to return with more questions.  EWH
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