Q&A: Will Oral Sex Give Me Cancer?

Dear Shhhh,

Thanks a lot for you existence and the opportunity to ask you questions!

I would be grateful to gather your thoughts on the following:
I am not very experienced in sex and the past one year when trying to give blowjobs to my partner I keep getting really painful mouth ulcers. I am scared about the statistics that oral sex increases oral cancer. We don’t use condoms. He really loves it and I want to understand if I should do it less (I used to do it daily, being a fresh couple 😉 ) or maybe with an easier technique to relax myself more often or are there any hygienic precautions I should be aware off? We are both very monogamous and he does take care of cleanliness.

Thanks a lot.

Kind regards,

Hey X.

Thanks for your question. It’s not oral sex that increases your risk of cancer but HPV can. Ulcers can also be caused by coming into contact with the HSV-1 virus.

So the first thing we’d recommend is that you and your partner get tested!

Testing for HPV is not always recommended because it is so common but you should definitely consider getting screened for other STD’s especially if you’re not using protection. About 50-80% of adults have oral herpes, it’s not a major health concern in most cases but you should avoid having oral sex if you have a cold sore because it can be transmitted to the genitals.

On HPV, it has been linked to some types of oral cancer (although alcohol and smoking are bigger risk factors), however around 25% of mouth and 35% of throat cancers are HPV-related. So it a possible, if not likely, concern.

It’s not known how common HPV infection in the mouth is. A study carried out in 2009-10 concluded that the prevalence of oral HPV infection in American men was 10%, and in women 3.6%. Age and number of sexual partners can play into your chance of infection. Even so 90% of people will naturally clear HPV from their body within two years, so it’s unlikely to lead to cancer.

You may benefit from getting the HPV vaccine particularly if you are under 26; by 26 most women will have been exposed to some strand of HPV, although they may still benefit from the vaccine. It might be something to discuss with your doctor.

If you’rswirl-flavoured-lubese both healthy there is no real reason why giving oral should cause mouth ulcers, unless you’re biting or scraping the inside of your mouth.


Whatever you’re doing we highly recommend using condoms or dental dams for oral sex.

This is the best way that you can protect yourself, if you don’t like the taste of condoms try flavoured condoms or flavoured lube. 

Again we highly recommend that you and your partner both get yourselves screened for STD’s, it’s the best way to give you peace of mind or make sure you’re taking all necessary precautions.

Hope that answers your question, thanks so much for getting in touch and continue to enjoy frequent oral. If you’d like some tips on technique why not come along to one of our ‘Blow His Mind’ classes, for a friendly, informative guide to fellatio.

If you have any questions please send them to, if you’d like advice from our sex and relationship expert Sarah Berry please include the subject line ‘Ask Sarah’.

Team Sh! xxx

All names are changed for the purposes of anonymity.

Sexual Health Week

Sexual Health Week: STI’s

Sexual Health Week takes place from 14th September until 20th September and during this week we’ll make your vagina (or penis) our focus. We want your juicy bits to stay healthy.

We all know that we should go for regular check-ups, and that we should use condoms if we’re lucky enough to pull a hottie on a night out. But how many of us actually adhere to this, 100%? There are definitely occasional slip-ups, right?  Too busy, too drunk, don’t like getting our kit off in front of nurse in case she laughs at our oddly-shaped labia lips… There are many excuses and you may even have used one of them yourselves. And by doing so, you’re doing your vagina (or penis) a massive disservice.

Sexually Transmitted Infections, or STI’s for short, can happen to anyone who is sexually active.

It doesn’t mean that you’re playing fast and lose, and it doesn’t mean that you’re in some way “dirty”. It’s a risk we all take if and when we aren’t practising safer sex.

Safer sex means using condoms, dental dams and latex gloves during all sexual encounters where a partner’s STI status is unknown – this is by far the best way of avoiding unpleasant itching or frothy discharges in delicate areas.

Sexually transmitted infections are passed from one person to another through genital and/or sexual contact.

The good news is that most infections can be cleared up quickly.

The bad news is that many aren’t aware of carrying an infection, as they show no symptoms.

ribbed-condomsChlamydia is the most common STI in the UK, and worryingly, most people don’t experience any symptoms. This means you may be infected for a very long time, and could unknowingly be passing it on to partners.

Women may experience a burning sensation when peeing, vaginal discharge and bleeding in between periods. For men, symptoms may show as burning when peeing, a cloudy discharge or pain in the testicles.

Untreated Chlamydia can lead to infertility, so it is important to get checked out regularly.

Genital Warts are small, fleshy growths around your genital area, including the anus. They are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus and the second most common STI in the UK. The warts are usually painless, but you may notice some redness or itching.

Gonorrhoea is a bacterial STI easily passed on during sex. About 50% of women don’t experience any symptoms at all. For those who do experience symptoms,  pain when peeing or a watery discharge is common. Other symptoms can be pain in the lower abdomen after sex, or bleeding in between periods.

Dental DamThricomoniasis is caused by a teeny-tiny parasite, and is passed on easily. Most people don’t know they’re infected.

Thric can cause a frothy, yellowish discharge in women, and men may experience burning after peeing or an inflamed foreskin. Thric can be difficult to diagnose, and your GP may advise you to go to specialist clinic for a swab test.

Pubic Lice crawl from hair to hair (but don’t jump from person to person) so up close contact is how they are passed on.  They can live in all body hair, and it may take weeks before you realise you are infected.

HIV is most commonly passed on through unprotected sex, but can also be transmitted via infected blood. There are no cures for HIV, but there are treatments that allow the infected person to live a long and otherwise healthy life.

If you experience any of the above symptoms, we recommend you book yourself an appointment at your local GUM Clinic for further investigation. There is no shame in having an infection – but it is important it gets cleared up…


For more info on sexually transmitted infections.