Understanding HPV and Men

Quick Facts:

  1. Many men with HPV never experience symptoms.
  2. HPV can cause penile cancer in men.
  3. Some men are more at risk for developing HPV-related health problems.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most widespread sexually transmitted virus in the United States. Almost 80 million Americans are infected with the virus. About 14 million new cases added each year. More than half of all sexually active men and women have HPV at some point in their lives.

More than 150 different types of HPV exist. Approximately 30 of these types are related to genital HPV infections. Each HPV type is numbered and categorized as either a high-risk or low-risk HPV.

Low-risk HPVs can cause warts. They generally produce little to no symptoms. They tend to resolve on their own without any long-term effects.

High-risk HPVs can cause cancer. They’re more aggressive forms of the virus that require medical treatment. Sometimes, they can also cause cell changes in the penis and anus. Although penile and anal cancers are rare, they’re still possible.

Most men with HPV never experience symptoms or realize that they have the infection. If you have an infection that won't go away, you may begin to notice genital warts on your:

  • penis
  • scrotum
  • anus
  • the back of your throat

If you notice any abnormal skin changes in these areas, see a doctor immediately for further evaluation.

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What causes HPV in men?

Both men and women can contract HPV from having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an infected partner. Most people infected with HPV unknowingly pass it on to their partner because they’re unaware of their own HPV status.

Risk factors for HPV in men

Although HPV is common in both men and women, health problems resulting from HPV are less common in men. Three male subpopulations are at increased risk for developing HPV-related health problems. This includes:

  • uncircumcised men
  • men with weak immune systems due to HIV or organ transplant
  • men who engage in anal sex or sexual activity with other men

It’s important to understand the cancer-causing properties of HPV in both men and women. Based on data from 2006-2010, approximately 33,200 HPV-related cancers occurred in the United States. Of those cancers, 62 percent occurred in women and 38 percent in men.

The primary forms of cancers caused by HPV are:

  • cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancer in women
  • penile cancer in men
  • throat and anal cancer in men and women

Cervical cancer is the most common HPV-related cancer in women. Throat cancer is the most common HPV-related cancer in men.

How is HPV in men diagnosed?

Due to the high correlation between cervical cancer and HPV, much effort has gone into creating tools to diagnose HPV in women. Currently, there are no tests to detect HPV in men.

It’s important that you take notice of any HPV-related symptoms and report them to your doctor. You should see your doctor immediately if you notice any abnormal skin growths or changes in your penile, scrotal, anal, or throat areas. These may be early signs of cancerous growths.

If you think you’re at risk for HPV but aren’t experiencing symptoms, it’s still important to get tested. Some people carry, and possibly spread, the virus for years without ever knowing.

Treating HPV in men

There is currently no cure for HPV. However, most health problems that are caused by HPV are treatable. If you develop genital warts, your doctor will use a variety of topical and oral medications to treat the condition.

HPV-related cancers are also treatable, especially when diagnosed at an early stage. A doctor who specializes in cancer treatment can assess the cancer and provide an appropriate treatment plan. Early intervention is key, so you should see a doctor immediately if you’re experiencing any unusual symptoms.

Prevention: How to reduce your HPV risk

The top way you can protect yourself against HPV is to get vaccinated. Although it’s recommended that you get vaccinated around age 12, you can still get vaccinated up until age 26. You can also protect yourself by:

  • limiting your number of sexual partners
  • using condoms correctly and consistently
  • avoiding sexual contact with a partner if genital warts are present

For more information about getting the HPV Vaccination, contact:

City of El Paso Department of Public Health

5115 El Paso Dr, Ste B

El Paso, TX 79905

915-212-6537
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