Nearly Half of Men in the U.S. Infected with HPV

March 28, 2017
Nearly Half of Men in the U.S. Infected with HPV

Just under one in two U.S. men are infected with human papillomavirus (HPV), according to a new study. What's more, unlike women, these men are likely to stay infected throughout their lives.
Appearing in the journal JAMA Oncology, the research found that 45 percent of men and women carry HPV, which can cause genital warts and certain forms of cancer. That said, while women appear more capable of shedding the virus, men appear to hold onto the infection, even though they are often unaware.
What's the Risk?
While it often causes no symptoms, HPV is anything but benign. According to the researchers, the virus is responsible for 63 percent of penile cancer cases, 72 percent of throat and oral cancers, and 91 percent of anal cancers. HPV can also be an indirect cause of cervical cancer in women and is the primary cause of genital warts. In some cases, HPV can even result in tumors in the respiratory tract.
Why the Virus Stays with Men
While some men do shed the HPV virus, many do not. While they can't say for sure, the researchers believe this may be due to the virus accumulating in the penile glands, as opposed to the surface of the vagina in women. There may also be specific underlying biological differences that prevent male immune systems from mounting an effective response to the virus; however, more research is needed to confirm this.
What You Can Do
Health experts say HPV is so common, nearly all sexually active women and men will get it during their lives. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that 11 to 12 year olds get two doses of the HPV vaccine; however, the vaccine is not approved in the United States for adults over the age of 26.
Still, adults can reduce their risk of contracting HPV by using latex condoms for sex or by staying in mutually monogamous relationships. The CDC also recommends routine cervical cancer screenings for women between the ages of 21 and 65.
Currently, there is no approved test to determine a person’s “HPV status.” There are also no treatments for the HPV virus, itself; however, doctors can prescribe medications for genital warts and cervical precancer.

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