The human papilloma virus (HPV) is one of the most common viral groups in the modern world. As of 2014, over 200 distinct HPV strains have been identified and many of these are capable of infecting multiple areas of the body. Highly visible strains typically produce non-cancerous growths (warts) that are easily treatable by a number of conventional remedies (salicylic acid, apple cider vinegar, etc.). Sexually transmitted human papilloma virus strains, however, are a much more serious problem. HPV 18 and HPV 16 are notorious in the medical community, causing approximately 95% of cervical cancers in women, and recent studies indicate these strains may also be linked to oral cancer. Of the 200+ HPV strains currently identified, only nine are thought to be cancer-causing.
As with all “successful” viruses, the human papilloma virus is engineered to flourish in its environment (surface skin and mucous membranes), though the medical community has yet to discern why certain HPV strains target the hands and feet (common and plantar warts) while others target the mucus membranes of human genitalia. While most of these strains can cause visible growths, irritation, and itching, HPV 16 and HPV 18 are the most dangerous by far. Both of these HPV strains have extremely strong binding capability that allows them to reproduce quickly, leading to a massive population of viral cells in a relatively short time. Though these strains typically cause cervical cancer, recent studies indicate that the oral environment is similar to the vaginal environment when considering optimal HPV growth conditions.
The medical community recognizes the importance of establishing the genetic links between oral cancer and the corresponding HPV strains, given that approximately 25% of oral cancers occur in non-smoking patients. Physicians urge the importance of living a preventive lifestyle to minimize lifestyle impact on what may already be a genetic predisposition to cancer. A preventive lifestyle focuses on regular physical activity, proper weight management, adequate rest, and a healthy diet. It is difficult to remember that our bodies are, in many respects, quite mechanical, and respond accordingly to the fuel we provide. Living a preventive lifestyle will help keep the immune system in the form most able to prevent cancer from taking root, as we naturally have cancer cells in our bodies periodically throughout our lives. The nature of the relationship between oral cancer and HPV strains will continue to prompt medical studies, but in the meantime a preventive lifestyle remains an incredibly positive choice for people looking to minimize their chances of developing a wide variety of cancers.