Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the US. In fact, most sexually active men and women will contract HPV at some point in their life. More than 100 types of HPV have been identified so far, and more than 40 subtypes of the virus can infect one’s throat and genital region. Oral HPV is transmitted through oral sex, and it is one of the most prevalent forms of the virus. The latest figures show that one in nine American men is infected with oral HPV, which is a major reason for concern.
Prevalence of oral HPV among American men
Even though the prevalence of HPV-positive OPSCC (oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma) is high among men, the evidence about the difference in the prevalence of oral HPV among men and women is limited. The lack of data prevents scientists and healthcare providers from proposing adequate measures to lower the prevalence rates.
What’s more, concordance of genital and oral HPV among African men is still unknown. To get more insight into the subject and gain knowledge about the prevalence of oral HPV, Ashish A. Deshmukh, and a team of scientists at the University of Florida carried out an important study. Deshmukh and his team used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to analyze the rates of oral HPV and compare how many women and men are infected with this virus. Participants who took part in this large study were between 18 and 69 years old.
The results of the study were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, and they showed that 11.5% of participants had HPV. Expectedly, the prevalence of both low- and high-risk HPV was higher in men than in women. For example, only 1.4% of women were infected with high-risk HPV, while 7.3% of men had this sexually transmitted infection. Both men and women from the 50-54 age group had a higher prevalence of the virus compared to their younger and older counterparts.
Findings also showed that 11 million men had oral HPV or one in nine men to be more precise. On the other hand, only 3.2 million women had this type of virus. It is still not clear why HPV is more frequent in men than in women.
Increasing rates of high-risk HPV
As mentioned above, men are more prone to high-risk HPV, and scientists just discovered how common this virus really is. They discovered that the most prevalent high-risk type of the virus, HPV 16, was six times higher in men than in women with a ratio of 1.8% vs. 0.3%.
The HPV 16 is a major contributor to cancers of the head and neck. These figures could also explain the rise incidence of oropharyngeal cancer. The rates of this cancer have increased by more than 300% during the last four decades, thus making it the most frequent HPV-related cancer in the country.
Along with shocking findings of the prevalence of oral HPV and high-risk virus strains, scientists made other important discoveries too:
- High-risk oral HPV was strongly linked with cigarette smoking and marijuana use
- In 2016, 60% of teens ages 13-17 received at least one or more doses of HPV vaccine
- Oral HPV is more prevalent in African-American men than in white men
- The highest rates of oral HPV were found in men who reported having sexual intercourse with multiple partners, men with genital HPV, and men who had sex with other men
The latest study discovered that not only HPV is more prevalent in men, but oral HPV affects one in nine American men. At this point, scientists aren’t sure why the virus is more prevalent among men than in women, but risk factors include same-sex with other men, smoking (both cigarettes and marijuana), engaging in sexual intercourse with multiple partners.