Altoona (WQOW)- For those who many think smoking is the only leading cause of oral cancer, think again.
Dr. Robert DeFatta, of DeFatta ENT and Facial Plastic Surgery in Altoona, said the human papilloma virus is the fastest growing cause of throat and tongue cancer. Over the last 40 years there has been a 300-percent increase in this type of cancer, because of HPV.
Doctors said the virus can be spread sexually, through oral sex or even by kissing. Once thought by many people to be exclusive to causing cervical cancer, experts said HPV can cause eight different types of cancer, and is also the most common STD. The virus is also infecting a higher percentage of men than women.
Experts say everyone should get an HPV vaccine when they're around 11 or 12 years old, before becoming infected with the virus.
"Twenty-eight percent of the American population, or about 79 million people, are infected with the human papilloma virus in their oropharynx. That doesn't mean that they're going to get the cancer, that's one of the things that we need to figure out is what's actually going to cause some people to get it and other people not to. But the other thing is, when you extrapolate it out, it's actually thinking that 85 percent of Americans will be infected with oropharyngeal cancer at some point in time in their lifetime," DeFatta said.
A statewide summit on HPV will be held all day Thursday at Florian Gardens. Anyone is welcome to attend and learn more about the vaccine and the risks. Registration will be open at the door, but can also be done online.