If you’re going down tonight, don’t forget your rubber. Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection rates, spread through oral sex, have increased the number of oropharyngeal (head and neck) cancers, according to U.S. health officials as reported by MedicineNet.

Current studies reveal that 20 percent of oropharyngeal tumor tissue stored 20 years was HPV positive, said Scott Lippman, MD, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Today about 60 percent of patients are HPV positive.

“This is a real trend, and that is why there is concern of an epidemic given the fact that oropharyngeal cancer is increasing at an alarming rate,” Lippman said.

As a result, experts advise the public that oral sex doesn’t equal safe sex. Research shows that teens are uninformed about the risk of unprotected oral sex, including transmission of HPV, chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Changes in sexual practices during the past 20 years, especially those relating to oral sex, have increased the rate of head and neck cancers, said Otis Brawley, MD, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Brawley also said that these new sexual practices “may be increasing the rates of other cancers as well.”

“There is a huge public health message here,” Brawley added.

Learn about oral sex as it relates to HIV here.