Oral HPV infection is common among Men

Oct 17, 2017

According to the Annals of Internal Medicine's recent report, oral Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is common among U.S. men.

  • The overall prevalence of oral HPV infection was 3.6 times greater in men (11.5%) than women (3.2%). This equates to 11 million men and 3.2 million women in the US.
  • More significantly, high-risk oral HPV infection (HPV associated with risk of developing cancer) was 5 times more prevalent among men (7.3%) than women (1.4%).
  • Among men who reported having same-sex partners, the prevalence of high-risk HPV infection was 12.7% (3.6% for women with same-sex partners).
  • Other associated risk factors for high-risk oral HPV infection include concurrent genital HPV infection, multiple lifetime sexual partners, and cigarette/marijuana smoking.

HPV infection can cause cancer at several anatomical sites (oropharynx, anus, and penis in men and oropharynx, anus, cervix, vagina, and vulva in women). Approximately 40,000 HPV-related cancer cases are diagnosed annually. Among these cases, more than 12,000 men and 3,000 women are diagnosed with oral cancer.

Evidence shows that prophylactic HPV vaccination protects against specific HPV subtypes (e.g. 4 subtypes for Gardasil and 9 subtypes for Gardasil 9). Since vaccination of these subtypes protect against high-risk HPV infections, this is a potential way to reverse the rising oral cancer incidence among men. Unfortunately, uptake rate of the vaccine among boys remain low despite CDC recommendation (it is routinely given at 11 or 12 years of age, but it may be given through age 26 years). Moreover, men older than 26 years do not qualify for HPV vaccination or may have already been exposed to HPV (may be less effective).