Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the US. A new study suggests 45.2 percent of men have some form of the genital HPV. While that idea alone might freak some people out, the real fear is that 25.1 percent of these cases have a type linked to cancer.
The findings come from a new study published in JAMA Oncology, which looked at nearly 2,000 men aged 18 to 59 years from the US. While that is a comparatively small study size, it still shows some worrying trends.
There are over 100 strains of HPV, with varying degrees of high to low risk in the symptoms or complications they cause. The vast majority of sexually active people (and many nonsexually active people too) will get the virus at some point of their lives, although many won’t display any symptoms and probably won’t even know they have it. Typically, most strains will disappear without any severe health issues. However, a few strains have been strongly linked to certain cancers, including cervical, vaginal, penis, and throat cancer.
Frustratingly, there is a vaccination that can help defend against some of the most high-risk HPV strains. Some can vaccinate against up to nine of these strains. But, just 10.7 percent of the men in this study had been vaccinated against HPV.
It isn’t all doom and gloom though. One positive finding was that young men have notably fewer instances of HPV compared to older individuals. Specifically, the group of 18 to 22 years olds had a prevalence rate of just 28.9 percent. For men age 23 to 27, it then rose to 46.5 percent. However, the researchers didn't go into what caused this pattern.
With better awareness and wider vaccination programs, who knows, it could spell bad news for HPV-related cancers.