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Regardless, just over 11,000 cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed this year, a number that has been dropping steadily thanks to better Pap smears. (It’s too soon to know what difference vaccination will make.) Gillison’s team calculated that annual cases of cervical cancer will drop to 7,700 by 2020 _ compared with about 8,700 cases of HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer by then, about 7,400 of them in men.

The cancer society’s Chen urged caution about those numbers, saying more data is needed. But she says two things are clear: First, patients with HPV-linked oral tumors have better survival odds than those with other types of this cancer, possibly because they tend to be younger. Studies are beginning to test if they can scale back today’s treatment and thus suffer fewer long-term side effects such as problems with speech and swallowing.

And “just because you’re not a smoker or drinker doesn’t mean you can’t get throat cancer,” Chen says _ so get checked for symptoms like a throat that’s sore for longer than two weeks.


EDITOR’S NOTE _ Lauran Neergaard covers health and medical issues for The Associated Press.