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Several subtypes of the human papilloma virus (HPV) could cause oral papilloma, with some forms of the virus increasing the risk for oral cancer. Identified as HPV-16, HPV-18, HPV-31, and HPV-45, these common strains of the virus spread through oral sex or mouth-to-mouth contact with an infected person, and might develop into oral cancer. Two other types of oral papilloma, listed as HPV-6 and HPV-11, represent noncancerous forms of infection, which typically require no treatment,
Noncancerous oral papillomas might appear on the lips, inside the cheeks, on the tongue, or in the throat. These growths typically consist of a single wart that might look red, pink, or white, resembling a small piece of cauliflower. These papillomas begin in squamous cells, which also appear in the digestive system, nose, eye, and esophagus. Squamous cell papillomas typically resolve without treatment, without spreading or growing.
HPV-16 and HPV-18 show increased risks of developing into mouth cancer. About three-fourths of patients with this strain of the virus who contract oral cancer smoke tobacco. Alcohol use also increases risks. Lesions or warts might appear in the throat or nose before spreading through the bloodstream or lymph nodes. Some tumors might grow so large that they restrict breathing.
Laryngeal papillomatosis defines another type of oral papilloma, which rarely becomes malignant. Benign growths might develop throughout the mouth and respiratory system, including the throat, nose, and lungs. This condition occurs more commonly in very young children, and might be transmitted by an infected mother during childbirth. As one of the first signs of this disorder, the voice might change from growths on the vocal cords.
Treatment varies, but might include surgical removal of an oral papilloma that makes swallowing or breathing difficult. Doctors usually advise patients to rest the voice when vocal cords exhibit growths. These warts often cause no problems and are barely visible.
No cure exists for the human papilloma virus, the most common sexually transmitted disease, which typically occurs in moist areas of the body, including the vagina, cervix, penis, and mouth. Cells in the mouth mimic epithelial cells in genital areas where HPV thrives. Warts alone do not represent cancer, but might develop into cancer, especially in high-risk patients who smoke or use excessive alcohol. A vaccine developed for young girls might protect them from getting HPV when they become sexually active.