Q: I have HPV. Can my partner get cancer from having oral sex with me?

Yes, it’s theoretically possible, but let me give you some context.

While it is difficult to avoid exposure to HPV (an estimated 60-85 percent of men and women have been exposed to HPV at some time in their life), most of the HPV are “low risk,” and unlikely to cause disease.

But there are also “high risk” HPV that can lead to cervical disease in women and oropharyngeal disease (like throat cancer) in men and women. Men are more susceptible to that than women.

Male and female condoms don’t really protect against transmission of the HPV.

You asked. Dr. Barb answered.Now we test more specifically (and standard of care now is every five years) to determine who has high risk vs. low risk HPV so we can better monitor. Your doctor can reassure you about your particular risk level. A few years ago, a vaccine was introduced for young people to protect them (and it was just approved for people up to age 45). Researchers are currently working to determine if there is value in giving the HPV vaccine to older individuals or those already exposed to the virus.

You can find more information on HPV and other sexually transmitted infections in other posts on our blog.
Dr. Barb DePree
Dr. Barb DePree MD


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