Healthcare provider discussing with patient how likely it is to get throat cancer from HPV

How Likely Is It To Get Throat Cancer From HPV?

Medically reviewed on Nov 17, 2023 by Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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HPV (human papillomavirus) is a viral infection that’s contracted through skin-to-skin contact. In the United States, HPV is cited as the most common sexually transmitted disease (STI). However, how it impacts your body depends on the type of HPV you’re dealing with.

HPV can be categorized into low-risk and high-risk types. Low-risk HPV types can be asymptomatic, although they can also manifest as warts at the site of infection. High-risk HPV types, on the other hand, can cause several types of cancer—including throat cancer.[1]

But, how likely is it to get throat cancer from HPV? Let’s explore.

Understanding How HPV Works

HPV comprises a group of over 200 viruses, 30 to 40 of which can affect your genitals. Other strains can cause warts on various other parts of the body, including the mouth, hands, feet, face, fingernails, and toenails.[1,2]

The virus enters the body through cuts and scrapes, which is why it’s fairly common for children to develop warts. Genital warts, however, are strictly caused by STIs and can be transmitted through vaginal, oral, and anal sex, as well as through the use of shared sex toys.[3]

There are 12 high-risk strains of HPV. These include HPV 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, and 59. It’s HPV 16 and 18 that are responsible for the most HPV-related cancers.[1,2]

The body will fight off most HPV infections before they evolve into cancer. However, high-risk HPV strains can stay dormant in the body and multiply for years. When this happens, your cells can eventually turn cancerous (although this can take years to happen).[1] In the United States alone, 12,000 cases of HPV-related cancers are reported each year, and more than 80% of these cases are in men or people AMAB.[5]

About 70% of throat cancers, which are also called oropharyngeal cancers, are caused by HPV. However, not all HPV causes throat cancer.[1]

HPV Transmission

An oral HPV infection transmits through oral sex with an infected partner. When the virus infects the mouth, it can spread to the oropharynx, which includes the back of the throat, the base of the tongue, and the tonsils.[4]

It’s believed that 10% of men and people AMAB and 3.6% of women and people AFAB contract an oral HPV infection through oral sex, and the risk of contracting it increases as you age. Coupled with oral sex, smoking may also increase your risk of contracting oral HPV, with it, again, being more likely to develop in men or people AMAB.[5]

While cases of HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer has risen in recent years, the risk of contracting throat cancer is still relatively low, according to a study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.[5]

The study concluded that oral HPV is not very predictive of getting throat cancer, and most cases of oral HPV will clear before they become cancerous.5

National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) data also found that men’s lifetime risk of developing HPV-related throat cancer is a mere 0.7 percent, and 0.2 percent in women or people AFAB.[5]

How To Prevent HPV

GARDASIL®9, one preventative HPV vaccination, and is perhaps the most effective preventative measure as of now. It’s most impactful in children aged 9 to 12; however, the HPV vaccine is approved for adults aged 45 and younger.[6] It’s rarely administered to adults, however, since most have already been exposed to the virus.[6]

It helps to protect people against the infection, effectively decreasing HPV-associated cancer rates.[5]

More specifically, the HPV vaccine defends the body against nine types of HPV, which cause cervical, vaginal, vulvar, anal, head, and neck cancer.[6]

To further prevent HPV, practice safe sex. Use condoms during sex, reduce the number of sexual partners you have, and have open communication about diagnosis and sexual activity with your sexual partners.

Can HPV be cured with antibiotics? Currently, there are no antibiotics that can treat HPV. If you or a housemate have warts, avoid contamination by covering the warts and treating them effectively with a topical cream or medication. If you have a cut or scrape, cover it and avoid contact with communal surfaces, such as doorknobs. Discover “how long do genital warts last” to help treat outbreaks.

Since HPV can be asymptomatic, it’s fairly common to spread the human papillomavirus infection without knowing it. It’s also very important to get tested regularly with an at-home HPV test or a scheduled Pap smear at your healthcare clinic, in which healthcare providers can assess for HPV and cancerous cells.[7]

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Discreetly Test For HPV With Everlywell

Generally, the risk of contracting throat cancer from an HPV infection is relatively low. That said, it isn’t entirely impossible, and about 75% of throat cancer cases are HPV-related.

To avoid spreading the virus, it’s critical to get tested regularly. The Everlywell at-home HPV Test is available to women and people AFAB. The test screens for both low-risk and high-risk HPV strains, including 16 and 18—which are responsible for the majority of HPV-related cancer types.

Don’t think twice about testing regularly. With Everlywell, you can sign up for a subscription, so there’s no need to remember to test regularly. Just receive your discreet test at home, and open the door to proactive sexual health. Or for more information about your sexual health, meet with a clinician via Everlywell and receive online STD treatment today.

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Can HPV Be Cured With Antibiotics?

HPV vs. HIV: Comparing Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)


  1. HPV and Cancer. NCI. Published October 18, 2023. URL. Accessed October 21, 2023.
  2. HPV (Human Papillomavirus). Cleveland Clinic. Published August 4, 2022. URL. Accessed October 21, 2023.
  3. Genital HPV Infection – Basic Fact Sheet. CDC. Published April 12, 2022. URL. Accessed October 21, 2023.
  4. HPV and Oropharyngeal Cancer. CDC. Published September 12, 2023. URL. Accessed October 21, 2023.
  5. Risk for Developing HPV-Related Throat Cancer Low. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Published October 20, 2017. URL. Accessed October 21, 2023.
  6. Tell me about the HPV Vaccine. Gardasil 9. URL. Accessed October 21, 2023.
  7. Protect Yourself Against HPV. NIH. Published October 2013. URL. Accessed October 21, 2023.
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