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'Virginity Pledges' May Lead to More High-Risk Sexual Behavior

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Many teens concerned about maintaining their virginity are turning to oral and anal sex instead. What they often fail to understand is that these sexual alternatives can carry just as high a risk for STIs (sexually transmitted infections) such as HPV (human papillomavirus).

Virginity pledges, as they are called, are considered to allow a woman to maintain her virginity by substituting other forms of sexual activity for vaginal sex.

Various studies are showing that HPV is creating a “new” form of oral cancer distinctly separate from that caused by excessive smoking and drinking and until now affecting men over age 50. This particular cancer is responsible for the majority of oropharyngeal cancers in men under the age of 50.

The good news is that these cancers resulting from HPV are more sensitive and receptive to treatment than the type resulting from years of smoking and drinking.

In research spanning 1980 to 2004, the incidence of oral cancer in the United States has more than doubled, with the percentage of HPV-induced oral cancers rising even faster.

HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact particularly with the mucous membranes, and where aside from the vagina and anus do we have a predominance of mucous membranes? The mouth.

One of the main difficulties at this point is creating a screening method which would identify HPV within the mouth. In circumstances where biopsies have been shown to be positive for HPV-induced cancer, the HPV throat swab performed was negative. Focus will need to be placed on development of a reliable and accurate screening test going forward.

College campus health clinics should educate students regarding the risks of oral sex and should make it clear that 'virginity pledges' may place the individual at even greater risk for HPV and cancer.


“Many Teens Who Take “Virginity Pledges” Substitute Other High-Risk Behavior for Intercourse, Study Says”, Medical News Today, 21 March 2005. Web 1 Feb. 2012

"Yes, oral sex is sex, and it can boost cancer risk – - CNN.com Blogs." - CNN.com Blogs. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Feb. 2012.

Boskey, Elizabeth, and Ph.D.. "HPV and Oral Sex - HPV Throat Cancer – HPV Oral Cancer." Sexually Transmitted Diseases - STDs. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Feb. 2012. http://std.about.com/od/hpv/a/hpvoralcancer.htm

Reviewed February 1, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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