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Study Finds 1 in 9 US Men Have Oral HPV

OCT 19, 2017 | KRISTI ROSA
*Updated on 10/30/2017 at 2:11 PM EST

Past research has found that men have a high prevalence of HPV—one study found that about half of the men living in the United States are possibly infected with the virus—but new research coming in from researchers at the University of Florida (UF) has extrapolated out the information a step further.

The statistic that is displayed in headlines everywhere? About 1 in 9 men in the United States are infected with oral HPV.

HPV is an incredibly common virus; in fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that about 1 in 4 individuals in the United States are currently infected. There are over 150 types of the virus and some types can cause cancer. In fact, according to Time, around 30,700 US men and women develop HPV-related cancer each year.

"The two most common HPV-related cancers are oropharyngeal cancer among men and cervical cancer among women. Anal cancer (another HPV-related cancer) is most common among HIV-infected individuals, men who have sex with men, and women with a history of previous gynecological precancers or cancers," senior author Ashish A. Deshmukh, PhD, MPH, assistant professor at UF’s College of Public Health and Health Professions said in a recent email interview with Contagion®. "Primary HPV vaccination (prophylaxis) prevents occurrence of precancerous lesions and genital warts, thus preventing cancer."

The new study by the researchers at UF and published in Annals of Internal Medicine, focused on determining the prevalence of oral HPV infection, “as well as the concordance of oral and genital HPV infection, among US men and women,” by looking at data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2011 to 2014. According to Time, as there is no “federally-approved test” to diagnosis oral HPV, a dental hygienist collected oral rinse samples from study participants and sent them out to a laboratory to be tested.

The study revealed that men seem to have higher rates of HPV infection compared with their female counterparts—almost 11 million men had an oral infection of the virus versus only about 3.2 million women. Furthermore, oral HPV 16—the type of HPV that causes 60% of all oropharyngeal cancers—was 6 times more common in men compared with women.

“One suspects that the HPV persists longer (doesn’t clear easily) among men, and that might be causing increased prevalence,” senior author Ashish A. Deshmukh, PhD, MPH, assistant professor at UF’s College of Public Health and Health Professions told CNN via email correspondence. “It is also possible that men acquire oral HPV more readily than women.” He admits, however, that more research is needed to pinpoint the exact reason behind this finding.

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