In recent years, there have been efforts to reconsider cancers of the uterine cervix oropharyngeal, penile, vulvar and anal as sexually transmitted diseases.

The reason is because of their link to human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is everywhere and has been longer than is even known, there are over 100 types, and most of the time if anything happens it is benign lesions such as warts and condyloma. But a few thousand times per year it is more serious and subtypes like HPV16 can lead to malignant transformed cells which may develop into precancerous lesions or even cancer. In about a third of cases those cancers are linked to HPV and an HPV infection can be transmitted during sexual activity.

Because of the link to sexual activity, mitigating risky behavior, like with other sexually transmitted diseases, is key to prevention. Yet now we have an HPV vaccine and if it can possibly prevent a third of these cancers, it's worth considering.

A recent analysis using participants in the Leipzig Research Centre for Civilization Diseases(LIFE) population-based cohort was 303 healthy controls who were invited and interviewed, and then their responses were compared with those of 317 patients with head and neck cancer who are also part of the LIFE Study.

Using the survey results, the authors state that while their small group could not invalidate the weight of evidence showing HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer was more likely for people get who engage in high-risk sexual behavior and have a significantly higher number of sex partners, the greater incidents may be due to the presence of other risky lifestyle behaviors, such as cigarettes and alcohol, which both influence cancers.

Reducing those, along with an HPV vaccine, would likely be beneficial.