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HPV and Head and Neck Cancers

HPV and Head and Neck Cancers

Question

How does HPV virus cause cancers of the head and neck areas? How can you protect yourself from HPV?

Answer

Alexander Lin, MD, Radiation Oncologist at Penn Medicine, responds:

HPV infection leads to development of head and neck cancer, usually decades after the initial HPV infection. Your body clears the HPV infection, but HPV leaves a footprint in the cells of the base of tongue or tonsils, which over time, promote cancer development. The best protection against HPV is vaccination prior to exposure, which is now being offered for children.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire Head and Neck Cancer Q&A Webchat transcript.