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Study: Smoking could raise HPV risk

We already know that smoking is bad for your health. But new research goes even further in compounding the risks of tobacco exposure: A new study has found links between smoking and HPV risk.

The study, published Wednesday in the journal JAMA, found that people with greater tobacco exposure had a higher prevalence of oral HPV type 16. The researchers looked at data from 6,887 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, studying their biomarkers of tobacco exposures, including both smoking and secondhand smoke, in relation to HPV-16, which causes more than 90 percent of HPV-related cancers.

Tobacco, alcohol, and HPV are the leading causes of throat cancer, Gypsyamber D'Souza, co-author of the study and associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Time. While most people clear infections on their own, D'Souza said, "these results suggest that tobacco may make these infections less likely to clear, and therefore smokers may have a higher risk of eventually developing oropharyngeal cancers."

"What this adds to the story is an understanding of one reason why people who have not had very heavy sexual history, people who've had one lifetime partner... develop these cancers," D'Souza told Time. "This cross-sectional study suggests that in some people tobacco use might be an explanation."