[Question #5405] Getting HPV from Kissing which may lead to Cancer?

21 months ago
My Girlfriend has become extremely worried about the possibility of getting oral HPV from kissing me. She is afraid the oral HPV will lead to throat cancer. She is afraid that I might have oral HPV in my mouth. Even though I have never had oral warts or lesions in my life she is afraid that this oral HPV could be symptomless and could give her cancer. All we have done is kiss. I have never had oral sex with any girl  before. She is afraid because Im not a virgin I could have somehow caught HPV in my mouth and passed it on to her. I wasn’t with anyone and didn’t kiss anyone a year and a half before my girlfriend. Is there a possibility that she could have got HPV from kissing me and that this will lead to cancer ? 
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
21 months ago
Welcome to our Forum.  I'll do my best to help.  Your GF is worried far more than is warranted.  HPV is relatively infrequently transmitted by oral sex and even less commonly by kissing.  And despite the recent media attention about oral cancer, it's not that common.  Oral HPV is far less common than genital infections and when present the infection typically clears itself without therapy and without consequence.  In the entire US, there are only about 6,000 cases of oral or throat cancer per year that are due to HPV-16, the main genital type that has been implicated; and those occur almost exclusively in people age 50 and over. Most of those people have other contributing factors such as using tobacco (smoked or chewed).  In the past decade dentists have increasingly begun to look for oral cancers.

Your GF is correct however that most HPV infections, in the throat as well as genitally, are asymptomatic.  For this reason although over 80% of unvaccinated, sexually active persons have HPV but most are unware and suffer no consequences as the vast majority (0ver 99%) of HPV infection clear spontaneously over a year or two following infection with no problems.

You do not mention your or your GFs age but if either of you has had the HPV vaccine (and you probably each should) you are protected from HPV infections, not only at the genital tract but also in the oral cavity,  With or without the vaccine however, I would not worry about HPV transmission through kissing.

I hope this information is helpful to you and your GF.  EWH
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20 months ago
Thanks for that message but unfortunately my Girlfriend is still very concerned that she may end up getting oral cancer from oral HPV. I wasn't with anyone a year and a half before I was with my Girlfriend, does that mean that if I did have oral HPV it would have surely burnt out and left my system within the year and a half? Would even the cancer causing strands of Oral HPV clear out of the system within a year and a half? My Girlfriend is 21 years old, we only kissed and I'v never had oral sex with anyone before. Would me never having had oral sex with anyone before make a difference in terms of not getting HPV?

Both me and my Girlfriend are not vaccinated. Hypothetically if she got the vaccination after she was infected with oral HPV would the virus be cleared out with the vaccination ? 
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
20 months ago
I'm sorry but my sense is that your GF is over reacting.  Several comments:
1.  If she is so worried about HPV, why is she not vaccinated?
2. Given the fact that you state you have not been with anyone in 1.5 years and that you have never had oral sex with anyone, your risk of having oral HPV is tiny- certainly less than 1% and probably far less.  Further. while data are still evolving for oral infections, the majority of HPV infections resolve within 2 years of acquisition.

Finally available data suggest that HPV vaccination will protect against not only genital but also oral and rectal infections.

I hope this information is helpful.  I fear your GF is getting incorrect information or over reacting.  EWH
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