Uh-Oh: 50 Percent Of Men May Have HPV

Sex, Self

A new study suggests that half of adult men may be infected with HPV.

Well, this isn't good news. A study released in the Lancet by Moffitt Cancer Center indicates that half of men aged 18 to 70 in Mexico, Brazil and the U.S. may be affected by the human papillomavirus (HPV), known as the leading cause of cervical cancer.

Until now, most of the attention given to HPV has focused on how the disease endangers women. What most people may not know is that in addition to causing cervical cancer and genital warts in women, HPV can cause cancer of the head, neck, mouth, the tongue, tonsils, genitals and anus in both sexes. In fact, research from the National Cancer Institute estimates that in 2010, eighty percent of oropharynx cancers caused by HPV occurred in men. Masturbation May Cut Cancer Risk

The researchers began conducting the study after noticing that people talk about HPV in men far less than they talk about it in women. While testing more than 1,100 healthy men in three countries every six months for two years, scientists recorded a high increase in new infections. Men who had multiple sexual partners and who engaged in anal sex with various people were especially at risk. (Researchers uninvolved with the study point out that the sample size was small, so the findings may not accurately reflect infection rates in those three countries.) Should Boys Be Vaccinated For HPV?

While the proportion of men unknowingly affected by HPV may be disconcerting, lead researcher Dr. Anna Giuliano says that their findings should increase risk awareness while determining whether public health officials should make HPV vaccination for men and boys a standard in care. Women already have Gardasil, which prevents certain types of HPV in addition to strain 16, commonly associated with head and neck cancer. Right now, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention made Gardasil available for men between nine and 26 years old, but they don't campaign for the treatment in the same way women are encouraged to receive Gardasil. And, unlike women, men don't have screening tests for HPV-related cancers. HPV Shot: Promoting Protection or Promiscuity?

Prevention is key here, especially given last month's news that oral sex, not tobacco use, is now the leading cause of oral cancer. HPV is easily transmitted, and although all the high numbers can sound a little scary, we're glad that these announcements are promoting discussion on what health officials can do to curb widespread infection.