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Alarming percentage of men may be infected with genital virus

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Report underscores importance of HPV vaccine for men

A new and alarming report finds that nearly 50 percent of men under age 60 may be infected with the human papillomavirus or HPV. Among those statistics, 25 percent of men have what is called the high risk type of HPV that is a precursor to cancer.


What is also notable is that the infection is not seen in younger men at such high rates even though HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the world.

There has been a push to have young women vaccinated against the virus, yet it can be as risky for men as it is for women.

The finding is stunning when you consider how many men may be at risk for cancer of the anus, penis, throat and tongue.

For women, the virus is a known risk for cervical cancer. HPV can be spread even when there are no symptoms.

Recommendations from the CDC encourage vaccine for both boys and girls, age 11 or 12, yet the study, published in JAMA Oncology found just 10.7 percent of “vaccine eligible” males had received the immunization, which was approved in 2009.

Men who are older are twice as likely to have HPV compared to 18 to 22 year olds

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Researchers used software to establish a statistical estimate of the number of men infected, based on HPV genotyping among 1757 male subjects who were part of the NHANES 2013-2014 study.

The infection rate among 18 to 59 year olds was calculated at 45.2%.

See: How your dentist could save you from HPV cancer

Researchers weren’t able to qualify exactly which behaviors are driving the high rate of infections found in the representative sampling of 76.9 million American men.

Just 5.6 percent of men reported they had completed the HPV vaccination series. Men also self-reported sexual history and collected their own HPV samples.

There is currently no approved test for HPV test in men, with the exception of an anal PAP smear offered by some healthcare providers for high risk men. The researchers used DNA sampling..

The finding underscores the importance of HPV vaccine for men; not just women. It also highlights the risk to men who have multiple sexual partners. Condom use doesn’t give full protection from the virus.