Smokers who have had more than five sexual partners are also at greater risk of developing the cancer triggered by the human papilloma virus (HPV).
But scientists say that only 0.7 per cent of men – seven in every 1,000 – will ever develop HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer in their lifetimes.
The risk was much lower among women, those who did not smoke, and those who had less than five oral sex partners in their lifetimes.
An estimated eight out of 10 British adults will be infected with the HPV virus at some point in their lives.
Smokers who have had more than five sexual partners are also at greater risk
The chances of having oral HPV infection did increase with number of oral sexual partners
There are hundreds of different types of HPV and while most are harmless around 12 can cause cancer.
HPV 16 or 18 triggers most cervical cancer while HPV16 most throat cancer.
It is transmitted to the mouth and throat mostly by performing oral sex and appears to cause about 70 per cent of oropharyngeal cancers.
These cancers appear at the back of the throat, base of the tongue, or tonsils.
HPV-related oropharyngeal cancers approximately tripled in British men and doubled in British women between 1995 and 2011.
But the number of cases of oropharyngeal cancer is predicted to overtake cervical cancer by 2020, US scientists warned.
Associate Professor Amber D’Souza, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the US, said: “For these reasons, it would be useful to be able to identify healthy people who are most at risk of developing oropharyngeal cancer in order to inform potential screening strategies, if effective screening tests could be developed.
“Most people perform oral sex in their lives, and we found that oral infection with cancer-causing HPV was rare among women regardless of how many oral sex partners they had.
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“Among men who did not smoke, cancer-causing oral HPV was rare among everyone who had less than five oral sex partners, although the chances of having oral HPV infection did increase with number of oral sexual partners, and with smoking.”
The study analysed behaviour and medical records of 13,089 people aged 20 to 69 taking part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) who had been tested for oral HPV infection.
It used the numbers of oropharyngeal cancer cases and deaths to predict the risk of cancer from oral HPV infection.
Oral infections with the dozen HPV types known to cause oropharyngeal cancer especially HPV 16 were present at low prevalence in every defined group in the study.
Men with 10 or more lifetime oral sex partners have a 14.4 per cent chance of infection
Women ages 20 to 69, for example, had a frequency of infection of just over 1 per cent, compared to 6 per cent for men ages 20 to 69.
Men ages 50 to 59 were most likely to have an infection at 8.1 per cent of any age group.
Oral sex was clearly associated with a higher prevalence of infection, although the highest infection prevalence was seen only among men.
Women with 10 or more lifetime oral sex partners had a relatively low, 3.0 per cent prevalence of infection, whereas for men with 10 or more lifetime oral sex partners the figure was 14.4 per cent.
Smoking was associated with higher oral HPV prevalence
Prevalence of infection for those reporting zero or one lifetime oral sex partner was consistently low, between 0 and 2.4 per cent.
Smoking also was associated with higher oral HPV prevalence.
Prevalence was 14.9 per cent among men who smoked and reported five or more lifetime oral sex partners, compared to less than half that – 7.3 per cent for men who reported five or more lifetime oral sexual partners but did not smoke.
The study was published in the journal Annals of Oncology.