Oral HPV Infects 1 in 9 men in America


Eleven million American men have oral human papillomavirus infections, which can lead to head and neck cancer.

New research estimates that eleven million men in the United States have oral human papillomavirus (HPV), a disease that can be stopped by vaccination. Men are more likely than women to have HPV-16, an oncogenic type of the disease that contributes to cancer, according to a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

"Like HPV infection occurring at other anatomic sites, oral HPV may clear by itself; however, if it persists, certain strains such as type-16 may lead to oropharyngeal cancer," Ashish A. Deshmukh, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor in the College of Public Health and Health Professions at the University of Florida, told Drug Topics.

Deshmukh and his colleagues studied the prevalence of oral HPV in both men and women age 18 to 69 years old by using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2011 to 2014.

Deshmukh believes the study highlights the need to vaccinate for HPV. While half of adolescent girls aged 13 to 17 were up to date on their HPV vaccinations in 2016, just 38% of teen boys were up to date on their vaccinations, according to a new fact sheet released by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

"It is important to know the implications of oral HPV infection as HPV is preventable," Deshmukh said. "Getting vaccinated, if eligible, is a must both for our boys and girls."

The researchers discovered that men had an overall prevalence of oral HPV of 11.5%, which equates to 11 million men. Women, however, had a much lower prevalence of 3.2%, or approximately 3.2 million women. Men were also more likely to have high-risk oral HPV (7.3%) compared with women (1.4%).

High-risk forms of the disease can lead to cervical, oral, anal, vulvar, vaginal and penile cancers. It can also lead to oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma, a head and neck cancer.  

Researchers studied the prevalence of one high-risk form of HPV, known as HPV 16, to determine its frequency in both men and women. According to Deshmukh, men were six times more likely to have oral HPV 16 than women in the study.

Researchers also noted that those men who had a genital HPV infection were four times more likely to have an oral HPV infection as well, when compared to those who didn't have the genital form of the disease.

The prevalence rate of oral HPV was also higher for men who had same-sex partners (12.7%).

According to the study's findings, participants had a higher probability of having a high-risk form of oral HPV infection if they were black, smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day, currently used marijuana, or had more than 16 vaginal or oral sex partners during their life.

Even those who already have HPV can benefit from the vaccine because it may protect against contracting a different strain of the disease.

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