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Ask the expert HPV
Last updated January 31, 2020. 1 minute read

Can HPV be transmitted by kissing?

Although the rate of oral HPV prevalence has been associated with a greater number of sexual (including oral sex) and open-mouthed kissing partners in both men and women, kissing alone is not considered a high-risk sexual behavior, and is not an activity that is considered high risk for oral cancers.

Dr. Serena McKenzie, ND, IF, NCMP

Serena McKenzie, ND, IF, NCMP, is a physician in Kirkland, Washington and sits on Ro's advisory board. She developed the Northwest Institute for Healthy Sexuality, a specialty care center for people experiencing sexual concerns.

Reviewed by Dr. Mike Bohl, MD, MPH

Q. Can you get HPV from kissing?

A. HPV does have an association with throat cancers. Therefore transmission through kissing is surely one of the ways it can be passed. The being said, the various possible ways HPV can be passed orally aren’t well studied yet.

HPV type 16 can infect the inside of the mouth and has been associated with a type of mouth cancer. Infection of the lining of the airways with HPV types 6 and 11 also occurs, particularly—but not exclusively—in young children and infants. My understanding is that men who have sex with men and engage in oral sex have the highest risk of throat cancer from HPV.

Essentially everyone is exposed to HPV. It’s one of the oldest viruses known. There is no way to eliminate the risk of HPV transmission entirely. Most HPV infections, including those that can cause cancer, typically resolve within 12 months and don’t usually become cancerous. Although the rate of oral HPV prevalence has been associated with a greater number of sexual (including oral sex) and open-mouthed kissing partners in both men and women, kissing alone is not considered a high-risk sexual behavior, and is not an activity that is considered high risk for oral cancers.

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