Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Latest Posts

New Study Links HPV To Head And Neck Cancers In Men

A new study finds that half of men in America are infected with the HPV virus. Dr. Jon LaPook reports on the growing concern that the virus in men could be responsible for an increase in head and neck cancers.

HPV Affects Half Of U.S. Men

A study out [yesterday] in The Lancet by Moffitt Cancer Center researcher Anna Giuliano, Ph.D., and her colleagues finds that 50 percent of men ages 18 to 70 in Brazil, Mexico, and the U.S. have genital infection with human papillomavirus (HPV).  HPV is the virus that causes cervical cancer in women. It also causes warts and cancer of the genitals and anus in both men and women. Over the past several years, researchers have realized that the virus can also cause cancer of the head and neck.

Aimee R. Kreimer, Ph.D., of the National Cancer Institute, estimates that about 65 percent of the approximately 8,000 cancers of the tonsils and base of the tongue (oropharynx) seen in the U.S. in 2010 were from HPV infection; eighty percent of these are in men. The rates for HPV-associated cancers like these are increasing; for sites like the mouth and larynx that are associated with tobacco and alcohol use, the rates are decreasing (though still too high since too many people still smoke and abuse alcohol).

An infection rate of 50 percent for a virus that can cause cancer sounds scary. But knowing a few more facts about HPV helps put the risk in perspective. About 90 percent of men and women infected with HPV virus get rid of it on their own within about two years. There are many different strains of HPV — some that cause cancer and some that don’t. Only about 6 percent of men have genital infection with HPV 16 — the strain linked to more than 90 percent of cancers of the head and neck. And only about 0.6 percent of men have HPV 16 in specimens taken from their mouths; what percentage of those men go on to develop head and neck cancer is unknown. Read more »

Sex During Pregnancy Is Safe

The Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) has published a new primer designed to help physicians when they counsel pregnant women. They note that sex during pregnancy is normal and is generally considered safe. The authors point out that there are very few proven contraindications and risks regarding intercourse in normal pregnancy.

Pregnant women and their partners are often afraid to have sex. Men may think they are “invading” the home of the fetus and could actually harm the baby. In fact, the fetus is quite safe, ensconced in the uterus (womb) and the cervix (opening of the uterus) is closed in normal pregnancy. The penis has no contact with the fetus or the uterus during normal intercourse, no matter what the position.

When is intercourse considered risky? Only for women who are at high risk for preterm labor and for those with placenta previa because there is increased risk for hemorrhage. Even women who have had preterm labor may safely have sex unless they have cervical incompetence or a lower genital tract infection.

Women who are under the care of an obstetrician should know if they have any of these risks. The vast majority of women should be reassured that sex during pregnancy is safe for mom and baby.

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

The Link Between Oral Sex And Head And Neck Cancer

USA Today published a pretty accurate article regarding the rise of certain head and neck cancers with the increased popularity of oral sex and number of sexual partners.

The factor that creates this link is the human papillomavirus (HPV) which is associated with tonsil and tongue cancer. Alcohol and tobacco use is more highly linked with such oral cancers, but HPV does appear to be an independent risk factor.

A 2007 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that younger people with head and neck cancers who tested positive for oral HPV infection were more likely to have had multiple vaginal and oral sex partners in their lifetime. Having six or more oral sex partners over a lifetime was associated with a 3.4 times higher risk for oropharyngeal cancer — cancers of the base of the tongue, back of the throat, or tonsils. Having 26 or more vaginal-sex partners tripled the risk. The association continued to increase as the number of partners in either category increased.

Of greater concern is that “French” kissing may also potentially be a mode of transmission.

The good news (if you’re a young non-smoker diagnosed with HPV-positive tumors) is that about 85 percent of non-smoking people with HPV-positive tumors survive. That number drops to 45 or 50 percent in people who smoke and are HPV-negative. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Fauquier ENT Blog*

The 12 STIs Of Christmas

My yearly Christmas favorite reposted, courtesy of the British National Health Service (BNHS):

The 12 STIs Of Christmas

(Click on the title image to watch)

I have seen several searches of this blog for the BNHS and wondered why. The answer: The site no longer carries the wonderful show, for reasons unknown to me. As for the searches, I guess the Christmas season has people thinking about sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) set to a Christmas tune.

Merry Christmas!

*This blog post was originally published at GruntDoc*

Skin Cancer Where The Sun Don’t Shine

Not all skin cancers are from sun exposure. Viruses such as human papilloma virus (HPV), the virus that causes genital warts, also cause skin cancer. Skin cancer from HPV develops on genital skin in both men and women. It’s rarely talked about, but it’s important and can be deadly.

Did you know that half of all deaths from skin cancer other than melanoma are from genital skin cancer? You probably also didn’t know that women are more likely to die from genital skin cancer as they are from skin cancer that developed from sun exposure (again, excluding melanoma).

We dermatologists are inexhaustible when it comes to warning people about the dangers of sun exposure, but we should also be warning people about the dangers of genital warts. HPV protection, which includes HPV vaccines, is as important as sun protection in preventing death from non-melanoma skin cancer.

Genital warts can lead to deadly skin cancer. If your dermatologist has not checked your genital skin, be sure your primary care physician or gynecologist does. This is especially important, because unlike other sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) which often have symptoms, HPV or genital warts often don’t. It may be embarrassing, but it could save your life.

*This blog post was originally published at The Dermatology Blog*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »