Probably Half Of All Men Have HPV

A new study of 1,100 men in the U.S., Brazil, and Mexico found that half were infected with HPV, which is quickly being seen as evidence that boys should be vaccinated with Gardasil.

The men were ages 18 to 70. Anna Giuliano of the H Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa, Florida told Reuters that the human papilloma virus differs in men from women:

"What is different is men seem to have high prevalence of genital HPV infections throughout their lifespans." She said it appears that women are better able to clear an HPV infection, especially as they age, but men do not appear to have this same ability.

The Gardasil vaccine has been recommended for women under 26 to lower the risk of cervical cancer, which can be caused by some strains of HPV. Other strains have been linked to cancer in the anus, penis, head, neck, and throat. Dr. Anne Szarewski of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine in London said of the study, "It must surely strengthen the argument for vaccination of men, both for their own protection, and that of their partners."

It has occasionally been said that boys need to be vaccinated to protect women, but HPV carries its own risks for men. Anal cancer, which is relatively rare but increasing in incidence, has been a recent focus of attention. The FDA in December said Gardasil can be used to prevent anal cancer. It has a higher incidence among gay men — in the general population, about 1.6 cases per 100,000, compared to about 40 cases per 100,000 gay men — but overall, more women get it than men. According to a recentTimes article about a research foundation started by the children of a 51-year-old woman who died of anal cancer,

While men who have sex with men are at elevated risk for developing anal cancer, the disease strikes more women than men: cases are diagnosed in some 2,000 men and 3,260 women each year in the United States. The disease is on the rise, with new diagnoses increasing by 2 percent a year in both men and women, according to national cancer statistics. Each year, 720 people die of anal cancer.

Probably the best-known case of death by anal cancer was indeed a woman, Farrah Fawcett. And according to a interview with Dr. Kelly Garrett for Women's Voices for Change, focused on the health risks to older women,

Dr. Joel Palefsky and his group at UCSF have done the most research on this topic. In a study looking at a very healthy group of young women, they found that about 60 percent of them had anal HPV infection, compared to about 50 percent or so in the cervix. In a study done in a similar group in Hawaii, the prevalence was very similar. In other words, anal HPV infection in women may be far more common than anyone may have imagined. What this means from an oncologic standpoint still remains to be determined.

There are no set screening guidelines for detecting anal cancer. The stigma remains for both women and men — as one of the foundation-forming children told the Times, "The assumption most people make is that if you have anal cancer, you had anal sex. That's not true. Heterosexual men also have HPV in their anus, because HPV is so prevalent. But also: who cares if you had anal sex?"

Presumably the same people who freaked out about giving girls the Gardasil vaccine on the basis that it would encourage them to be whores.

Half Of Men May Have HPV, Study Shows [Reuters]
Related: HPV Shots For Boys Debated By Experts [Reuters]
Saving Lives From Anal Cancer [NYT]
HPV And Anal Cancer In Older Women [HP]
Earlier: Sexual Politics Help Thwart The HPV Vaccine
My Brush With Cervical Cancer