Health experts have warned that millions are unaware that oral sex is linked to a silent killer disease.
Research has established a link between foreplay and deadly diseases caused by viruses within the Human papillomavirus (HPV) group.
The group includes more than 100 different types, and the NHS warns that most sexually active people will become infected with one strain or another at some point in their lives.
While most don’t go on to cause other diseases, some have explicit links to genital warts and cancer.
Academics highlighted the lack of knowledge about the link earlier this year during a US conference.
The American Association for Cancer Research held its annual meeting earlier this year between April 14 and 19, where members revealed that only two-thirds of people have heard of HPV.
Researchers quizzed 2,000 American adults about the links between HPV and cancer over six years, from 2014 to 2020.
They found there was low awareness that HPV can cause anal, oral, and penile cancers, with knowledge declining throughout the study.
Between 2014 and 2020, awareness of the link to anal cancer fell from 27.9 percent to 27.4 percent, for oral cancer, it fell from 31.2 percent to 29.5 percent, and for penile cancer, it fell from 30.3 percent to 28.4 percent.
HPV is also associated with cancer of the vulva and vagina, although knowledge of these was not tested in the study.
Lacking knowledge has a direct impact on HPV incidence, with less awareness meaning fewer people take the vaccine.
Dr Eric Adjei Boakye, assistant scientist in the Department of Health Sciences at Henry Ford Health in Detroit and the study’s lead author, said the vaccine could treat “over 90 percent of HPV-associated cancers”.
He said that uptake, however, “remains suboptimal”, and that it is “imperative” to raise awareness.
Dr Boakye said: “Given the connections between HPV-associated cancer awareness and HPV vaccination uptake, it is important we increase the population’s awareness of this link, as it may help increase vaccine uptake.”
Uptake has dropped in the UK, as while school-age boys and girls in years 8 and 10 are eligible for the jab, coverage dropped by seven percent for year eight girls between 2021 and 2022 and 8.7 percent for boys in the same year.