Many readers may be surprised to learn that most sexually active adults will get an HPV (humanpapillomavirus) infection sometime in their lives. Although the disease is most often associated with women, new studies have shown that nearly 50% of men in the US are estimated to have HPV or some other genital infection caused by am STD virus and that 25% of all people harboring the virus have strains linked with several cancers. These include cancers those of the mouth and upper throat, cervix (70% of cases), vulva, vagina, penis, and rectum.
Cervical cancer is attributed to 2 types, HPV16 and HPV18, with HPV type 16 found in 41-54% of all cervical cancers. HPV6 and HPV11 are common causes of genital warts and respiratory papillomatosis. Meanwhile, it should be noted that more than 170 types of virus have been identified.
The new estimate is based on a 2013-14 national health survey in which 2,000 men aged 18-59 were tested for HPV. The results, published in the journal JAMA Oncology, also showed the disease to be nearly 45% higher than previously suspected for women, according to lead author Dr. Jasmine Han, a cancer specialist at Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
While the majority of infections won’t result in any visible symptoms other than genital warts and will go away without treatment,’ Debbie Saslow, a virus specialist at the American Cancer Society was quick to comment that the study “underscores the need to vaccinate boys as well as girls.”
She also added that the “new estimate provides a good baseline for measuring the effectiveness of HPV vaccinations in boys and young men,” and noted that the vaccine was first recommended for pre-teen boys and young men in 2011 (5- years after approval for girls). Despite this, the government eased recommendations from 3-doses to only 2 this past October after it was learned that only 33% of 13-year-old girls and boys were fully vaccinated.
The 3 vaccines available to protect against the virus Cervarix, Gardasil, and Gardasil-9 may be given to both girls and boys as young as 9-years old and adults up to 26. Each protects against HPV 16 and 18, while Gardasil and Gardasil-9 are also effective against HPV 6 and 11 which cause 90% of all genital warts. Gardasil-9 also guards against the high-risk strains: 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58.
Although the number of sexual partners increases the risk of contracting HPV you have, engaging in sex with a partner who has had multiple sex partners can also put you in serious peril as well. In addition, physical contact with another person’s warts (genital and other kinds) as well as or not wearing protection before touching surfaces that have been exposed to virus (i.e. swimming pools, community showers and public restrooms) may result in transmission of the virus without the affected person even being aware of being infected.
Note: Current federal guidelines call for all women ages 21-65 to have a Pap test every 3- years to detect any changes in their cervical cells which might indicate the presence of cancer or pre-cancerous conditions.However, women over 65 can stop testing if they’ve had 3 normal Pap tests in a row, or 2 HPV DNA and Pap tests (done 5-years apart) with no abnormal results. In the meantime, men are advised to have their own genitals screened for any signs of genital warts as well.