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HPV and Cancer Risk in Men

Published on March 11th, 2016

When the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine first came out in 2006, it was targeted at teenage girls and young women as a means to prevent the spread of HPV strains that can lead to cervical cancer. However, HPV infections can lead to a variety of cancers for both men and women.

HPV Transmission & Symptoms

HPV is spread by oral, anal, or vaginal sexual contact and is one of the most common STDs. Nearly 80 million people in the United States are infected and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 80-90% of sexually active adults will be infected with at least one strain of HPV at some point in their lives. HPV usually has no symptoms, though some strains do cause genital warts. High-risk strains are ones that stay in the body and can potentially lead to a variety of cancers in both men and women.

HPV-Related Cancers in Men

Scientists have discovered in recent years that several strains of neck and head cancer can be tied to HPV infections in men. Men’s risk of acquiring high-risk strains of HPV increase if they are HIV-positive, they have sex with other men, and/or if they have multiple sexual partners. These high-risk strains of HPV can lead to anal, penile, or throat cancers, according to the Mayo Clinic.

HPV Prevention

To prevent the transmission of HPV, men and women can get the HPV vaccine. The HPV vaccine should be given to adolescents before they are sexually active, usually around the age of 11 or 12, as it improves the efficacy of the vaccine. However, young people under the age of 26 are encouraged to get the vaccine as well.

Condoms provide some protection from HPV, but body parts not covered by condoms may be infected, so it is not nearly as effective as the vaccine.

Vaccine use is increasing as the public becomes more aware of the power of the HPV vaccine to prevent cancer. Nationwide about half of boys are vaccinated about about 60% of girls. Talk with your healthcare provider about getting vaccinated or having your children vaccinated.

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