The increase of oropharyngeal carcinoma (OPC) in the developed world seems to be largely caused by infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a group of 150 DNA viruses that are common and most people will be infected at some point. While less than 1% of infections cause cancer, it may account for 5% of all cancers and may be the second most significant human carcinogen after tobacco. HPV status is relevant as HPV-positive OPC has significantly better outcomes and lower regional failures, independent of the treatment methods. While knowledge of the HPV status should not affect the routine clinical management it is required to inform discussions about prognosis and trial eligibility. This excellent article summarises the key messages about HPV in OPC, which are that it is common and affects most people at some time in their lives, is transmitted by normal sexual activity and not a marker of promiscuity or abnormal sexual practices. Infection does not imply recent infidelity. This editorial is a well written informative and summative and a must read for all involved in head and neck cancer.

Sexual health in oral oncology: breaking the news to patients with human papillomavirus-positive oropharyngeal cancer.
Evans M, Powell NG.
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Sunil K Bhatia

Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, Shrewsbury, UK.

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