Men are at a high risk for developing genital human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common type of sexually transmitted disease.
HPV More Common than One Would Think
Genital HPV is the most common type of sexually transmitted infection. Many people infected with HPV do not know they have it.
There are many different strains of HPV. More than 40 of them affect the genitals. Some types of genital HPV cause genital warts, while others can lead to cancer. Persistent infection with a high-risk strain of HPV is the leading cause of nearly all cervical cancers in women. Genital HPV may also lead to less common, but serious, cancers of the penis, anus, vulva, and vagina and some cancers of the oral cavity and head and neck.
You are more likely to catch HPV if you have multiple sexual partners.
HPV Men's Study
The NCI-funded study involved more than 1,000 adult men aged 18 to 70 years old that lived in the United States, Mexico and Brazil. The average age of the study participants was 32. All men were HIV-negative and had no history of cancer. The men were examined and tested for signs of a genital HPV infection every six months for an average of more than two years.
Researchers noted a high rate of HPV infection in men across all age groups. The finding suggests that men are at a high risk for catching new HPV infections throughout their life, and not just in their younger more sexually active years.
Cancer-causing types of genital HPV were more likely in men who had multiple sex partners, regardless of sexual preference.
- The chances of cancer-causing HPV infection was 2.6 times higher among the men who had anal sex with at least three men compared to those who had no recent partners.
- Men who had sex with more than 50 female sexual partners were 2.4 times more likely to have a cancer-causing HPV infection than men who reported having only one or no sexual partners.
Most HPV infections usually go away on their own. The time it takes for the HPV infection to clear varies. In the HPV study, it took "significantly longer" for HPV infections with any type of HPV to clear in men aged 18 to 30 than in other age groups.
Should Men be Vaccinated Against Cancer-causing Types of HPV?
Should men, including older men, be vaccinated against cancer-causing types of HPV? Study authors say their results provide much-needed information about the occurrence of HPV infection among men and how long HPV infections persist. This information on HPV, the authors say, is essential for guiding HPV prevention strategies and determining whether male HPV vaccination would be cost effective.
The results will be published in the March 1 online edition of The Lancet.
SOURCES: News release, The Lancet.Giuliano, A. The Lancet, manuscript received ahead of print. National Cancer Institute web site: "Human Papillomaviruses and Cancer."CDC web site: "Genital HPV Infection -- Fact Sheet."