1 in 9 American men have oral HPV

A new study shows that oral HPV affects men at a much greater rate than it affects women.
By Joseph Scalise | Oct 18, 2017
Roughly one in nine U.S. men have oral infections of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine reports.

HPV, which is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases, rarely has any symptoms. However, the virus can cause cancers of the throat, anus, penis, cervix, and vagina. It can lead to genital warts and lesions in the upper respiratory tract as well.

Past data shows that, among U.S. adults between age 18 to 69, roughly 11 million men and 3.2 million women have oral HPV.Though scientists are not sure of the reasons behind those numbers, they believe the infections could help explain why throat cancers in men have become more common over time.

"Traditionally HPV infection was considered a problem among women; however, a growing body of knowledge including our findings show that oral and genital HPV infection prevalence and concordance of oral-genital HPV is disproportionately high among men," said study co-author Ashish Deshmukh, a public health researcher at the University of Florida in Gainesville, told Inverse.

The HPV vaccine is recommended for U.S. children ages 11 or 12. However, about half of girls and even fewer boys got the two-dose series of shots needed to fully protect against the virus.

In the new study, researchers analyzed nationally-representative survey data from 4,493 men and 4,641 women. This revealed that 11.5 percent of men and 3.2 percent of women had oral HPV infections. However, in those who had partners of the same sex, those numbers rose to 12.7 percent of men and 3.4 percent of women.HPV 16 -- one of the high-risk strains of the virus -- caused oral infections in 7.3 percent of men and 1.4 percent of women.

The team also noted that almost 20 percent of men with genital HPV infections also had oral HPV.

While this study sheds new light on the disease, it did rely on survey participants to accurately report their sexual orientation and sexual behaviors. As a result, it could be limited.Even so, the team believes the data shows a need for better prevention among both men and women. Vaccinations work well, but condoms and screening are also good preventative measures.

"We do not have treatment for persistent infection or screening for many HPV-related cancers," said Erich Sturgis, a researcher at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston who was not involved in the study, according to Reuters "It is critical that we maximize HPV vaccination rates in adolescents and young adults," Sturgis added. "This cannot be stressed enough."

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