One in Nine Men in the United States Has Oral HPV

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Rates of head and neck cancer caused by the human papillomavirus are increasing among men who perform oral sex on infected women, the study authors reported.

The expert added that the sexually transmitted infection can be spread by deep kissing if someone has ann HPV-related oral infection.

The most common cancer caused by the sexually transmitted virus is oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma, a head and neck cancer that's far more common in men than women, according to the study. In addition, this study provides the most current national estimates for the prevalence of oral HPV infection in USA males and females. Black men, plus guys who smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day, now use marijuana, and reported 16 or more vaginal or oral sex partners in their lifetime had the greatest chances of a high-risk oral HPV infection, the researchers found. Oral HPV prevalence was 4 times higher in males with concurrent genital HPV infection (19.3%) than in males without it (4.4%). Oral HPV 16 was more common in men than women (1.8 vs 0.3%, respectively).

Eva McGhee, an assistant professor at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, said the work of Deshmukh and his co-authors may raise awareness of the dangers of HPV.

That's a problem, since getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself against the cancers caused by HPV.

In most cases, your body will fight off the virus and clear it from your body in one to two years, but past research has found that men are less likely to clear the oral HPV infection than women.

In 99 percent of cases, cervical cancer is said to occur as a result of a history of infection with high-risk types of HPV.

The study sourced its data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, or NHANES, a nationally representative group of adults aged 18-69 who had physical exams (including HPV testing) at mobile examination centers between 2011 and 2014. The vaccine only protects against a few of the highest risk types of HPV (nine of them, in the case of the newest version of Gardasil) and people who had been vaccinated were less likely to be infected with those types.

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Overall, the prevalence of all high-risk and low-risk HPV types was consistently higher in men.

One specialist said a lot of unknowns surround oral HPV.

Meanwhile, she noted that "85% of the population will encounter" human papillomavirus in their lifetime. "This is the longest follow-up period we have in relation to the HPV vaccine, and these women were vaccinated around four years before the vaccine was made readily available".

"For cervical cancer, it takes at least 10 to 20 years for a cervical cancer to develop once infected" with HPV, McGhee said, noting that cancer develops slowly. Other types are associated with cervical cancer.

Even if all those eligible to receive the vaccine got it in the next year or so, "it will need at least 20-30 years to reverse the rising rates of oropharyngeal cancer among U.S. men because majority of men at risk for this cancer are already older than vaccine eligibility age". The CDC now recommends men receive the vaccine through the age of 21, while men who sex with men should extend that to age 26.

"We have methods to screen for cervical cancer; however, we still don't have ways to detect oropharyngeal precancer", Deshmukh said.

"We can not take this HPV infection lightly, because it does not discriminate".

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