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So Much for Bill Clinton's Theory

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In the middle of the Monica Lewinsky scandal during Bill Clinton's presidency, a debate arose as to whether oral sex really counted as sex. A decade later, the debate has shifted to whether an increase in throat cancers could be blamed on the human papillomavirus being transmitted through oral sex. A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology says that HPV Type 16 — the type most likely to cause cervical cancer — is being transmitted through oral sex, and has caused a significant increase in cases of throat cancer in the US, reports The New York Times' Denise Grady. Researchers led by Ohio State University's Maura Gillison tested tumor samples from 271 throat cancer patients diagnosed between 1984 and 2004. "The virus was found in only 16 percent of the samples from the 1980s — but in 72 percent of those collected after 2000," Grady says. "The researchers estimated that over all, throat cancers caused by the virus have increased to 2.6 per 100,000 people in 2004 from 0.8 cases per 100,000 people in 1988. If the trend continues, by 2020 the virus will be causing more throat cancer than cervical cancer, the study concluded." Though there has been speculation among researchers as to the role HPV plays in throat cancers, this study is the first definitive evidence that this in indeed the case, Gillison tells Grady. In addition, experts speculate than an increase in oral sexual behaviors, particularly among young people, has contributed to this increase in cancers. Many researchers say that HPV vaccines currently on the market could help prevent some HPV-linked throat cancers, though studies need to be done to confirm this theory. This news has also caused some researchers to renew calls for boys to be given the vaccine as well as girls, Grady adds.

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