Oral HPV now affects almost 8 million more men than women

Nov. 10, 2017—About 1 in 9 men are now infected with oral human papillomavirus (HPV), a new study shows. That’s about 11 million men compared with 3.2 million women. Researchers say this trend may continue in the wrong direction because of low rates for HPV vaccination among men and boys.

HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can cause cancer at several sites in the body. These include the throat, anus, cervix, vagina, vulva or penis.

According to the study, the most common cancer caused by oral HPV is a type of head and neck cancer, which is also found more often in men than in women. This type of cancer has increased so significantly in men that it’s now surpassed the rate of cervical cancer in women.

Who’s getting oral HPV?

In addition to finding that more men than women are infected with oral HPV, the study also found that high-risk oral HPV infection——the type that most often leads to cancer—is also more common among men. High-risk infection affected 7.3 percent of men compared with 1.4 percent of women.

But being male wasn’t the only risk factor for high-risk oral HPV. The prevalence was also higher for people in these groups:

  • Men and women who reported 16 or more lifetime sex partners of any type.
  • Men and women who had same-sex partners.
  • Men and women who already had genital HPV infection.
  • Men and women who have smoked cigarettes, or former or current marijuana users.

The study was published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

Preventing HPV

The HPV vaccine can protect against this infection. But the vaccine must be given before age 26.

More kids and teens—male or female—and their parents need to know about the HPV vaccine. The study authors encouraged more prevention efforts to combat oral HPV.

Learn more about the HPV vaccine and how it can protect the young people in your life. Talk to preteens and teens about HPV. And check out this article to find out what parents should know about the HPV vaccine.