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Doctor says just kissing can spread HPV

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The human papillomavirus or HPV causes cervical cancer and also many anal and genital cancers. More and more research is linking HPV to cancers of the throat and mouth, too. And a recent study published in PLOS ONE has even suggested a link to one form of esophageal cancer.

Oral sex can be the way the virus is transmitted from person to person, but an infectious disease specialist at Children's Mercy Hospital says just kissing can also spread it.

"It can be just mouth on mouth. It does not have to be what we think of as oral sex. Oral sex is more likely to spread it, but if you have been infected orally and then you kiss the next person while you're shedding, you can spread it from oral to oral," says Dr. Christopher Harrison.

He recommends that boys and girls get vaccinated against HPV.

"The ideal time to get the best protection, we know, is in the early teens. We can do catch up later, but the best and most prolonged response occurs when kids get this somewhere around 11 to 12 years of age," says Dr. Harrison.

He says vaccination should occur before a person becomes sexually active.

"It's not just sexual activity. If boys are going out there and courting girls and visa versa, there's going to be some oral contact and mucousa, the little shiny linings of our mouth are just as easily infected as are the vaginal and cervical areas," says Dr. Harrison.

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