Unveiling the Silent Threat

April 10, 2024

HPV’s Role in Oral Cancer and the Vitality of Early Detection

In the realm of healthcare, some connections remain overlooked despite their profound implications. One such association lies between Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and oral cancer, a correlation that has gained increasing recognition in recent years. While HPV is commonly associated with cervical cancer, its link to oral cancer has quietly emerged as a significant health concern. In this blog post, we delve into the intricate relationship between HPV and oral cancer, highlighting the importance of early detection facilitated by innovative tools like VelScope.

DID YOU KNOW: that for every cervical cancer diagnosis caused by HPV, there are 4 diagnoses of oral cancer caused by HPV.

Understanding the Link: HPV and Oral Cancer

HPV, a group of viruses transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact, has garnered widespread attention due to its connection to cervical cancer. However, certain strains of HPV, notably HPV-16 and HPV-18, have been implicated in the development of oral cancer as well. These high-risk strains of HPV can infect the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat, leading to the formation of cancerous lesions over time.

What makes HPV-related oral cancer particularly concerning is its stealthy nature. Unlike traditional risk factors for oral cancer such as tobacco and alcohol use, HPV-related oral cancers often occur in individuals who don’t smoke or drink. Consequently, many cases of HPV-related oral cancer can go undetected until they reach advanced stages, significantly lowering treatment success rates and overall prognosis.

The American Cancer Society’s most recent estimates for oral cancers in the United States are:

  • About 58,450 new cases of oral cancer for 2024.
  • About 12,230 deaths from oral cancer 2024.

The Disparity in Screening: Pap Smears vs. Oral Cancer Screenings

The prevalence of HPV-related oral cancer poses a perplexing paradox: despite its rising incidence, oral cancer screenings are not as widely emphasized as cervical cancer screenings. Pap smears, which detect abnormal cervical cells early on, are heralded as a cornerstone of preventive care for women. However, there is no equivalent standardized screening protocol for oral cancer.

Over 70% of cases of oral cancer are caused by HPV.

This discrepancy can be attributed to several factors, including historical precedent, awareness levels, and healthcare infrastructure. Pap smears have been entrenched in preventive healthcare practices for decades, backed by extensive research and public health campaigns. In contrast, oral cancer screenings have yet to achieve comparable prominence, despite the urgent need for heightened awareness and screening efforts.

You’ve probably heard of Pap smears for checking cervical health. But why don’t we have similar checks for oral cancer? At PDC, we do.

Empowering Early Detection with VelScope

Enter VelScope – a cutting-edge device poised to revolutionize the landscape of oral cancer detection. Developed as a non-invasive adjunctive tool for oral examinations, VelScope utilizes tissue fluorescence visualization (blue light) to identify potentially malignant lesions that may not be visible to the naked eye.

The principle behind VelScope is simple yet ingenious: by illuminating oral tissues with a safe blue light, VelScope accentuates abnormal tissue fluorescence patterns indicative of early-stage oral cancer or precancerous lesions. This enables dental professionals to identify suspicious areas for further evaluation, facilitating timely intervention and improving patient outcomes.

VelScope makes problem areas show up more clearly. This helps dentists catch precancerous spots early before they get serious.

The efficacy of VelScope in detecting oral abnormalities has been well-documented, offering a rapid and reliable means of screening for HPV-related oral cancer. By integrating VelScope into routine dental examinations, healthcare providers can proactively monitor patients for signs of oral cancer, particularly in high-risk populations where HPV prevalence is elevated.


In conclusion, the link between HPV and oral cancer underscores the critical importance of proactive screening and early detection initiatives. Despite the overshadowing focus on cervical cancer screenings, HPV-related oral cancer represents a significant public health challenge that demands greater attention and resources. 

Tools like VelScope offer a promising solution, empowering dental professionals to identify suspicious lesions early on and intervene proactively. By embracing innovative technologies and raising awareness about the link between HPV and oral cancer, we can strive towards a future where early detection becomes the norm, saving lives and safeguarding oral health for generations to come. https://velscope.com/oral-hpv-infections/

The link between HPV and oral cancer is a big deal, even if we don’t talk about it as much. Catching problems early can save lives. With tools like VelScope, dentists can find issues sooner and give patients a better chance of beating oral cancer.

We are dedicated to protecting your health to the best of our abilities! If you have an oral cancer concern, we take it very seriously and hope to be an advocate for you to receive the diagnosis you deserve.