Did you know that HPV, a condition more commonly associated with women, can occur equally in men too?
HPV or human papillomavirus refers to a viral infection that is usually transmitted between individuals through skin-to-skin contact. A significant number of people get a genital HPV infection via direct sexual contact, including oral, anal, and vaginal sex. On most occasions, HPV will not show any noticeable signs and symptoms or even health problems. To enhance your knowledge about this common health condition, I am going to provide you with 8 quick facts you didn't know about HPV. Let’s go!
HPV is a lot more common than you think
Human papillomavirus is the most common type of viral infection among sexually active adults. Approximately 80% of men and women will be infected with HPV at some point in their lifetime.
HPV is typically transmitted through sex
HPV is generally considered a sexually transmitted infection. This implies that it is typically transmitted through anal, oral, and vaginal sex. Simply put, it requires intimate skin-to-skin contact for it to be transmitted from one person to another. Important! Though the use of a condom may reduce your risk of transmission, it doesn't entirely take away that risk.
HPV may not stay in your system forever!
Most affected individuals usually assume that HPV is a permanent infection that will potentially stay with them during their entire lifetime. However, it is imperative to note that substantial cases of HPV infections are usually cleared by the immune system of the affected patients within one or two years.With that said, this shouldn't make you ignore the potential threat HPV poses to your overall health.
There are more than a hundred strains of HPV virus
In this regard, there are low-risk as well as high-risk HPV strains. HPV 16 and 18 are the most common high-risk types and are associated with the growth of cancerous cells. Furthermore, it should be noted that HPV is not made up of just a single virus. Instead, it comprises a group of nearly two hundred viruses. Each virus is given a distinctive number to differentiate it from the others, and different viruses usually target various body areas and can result in different potential human diseases.
Research has indicated that human papillomavirus is associated with a risk for some types of cancers such as oral or cervical cancers. In terms of oral cancer, the cancer will mostly attack the back of your throat, the base of your tongue and tonsils.
It is also critical to mention that certain forms of HPV can result in genital warts.
Men can acquire HPV too
Just like females, men too, can acquire HPV and transmit it to their partners. Furthermore, human papillomavirus has been shown to enhance the risk of penile, anal as well as oropharyngeal cancers among men.
Get vaccinated for HPV if you already haven’t!
If you have been already infected with the virus, you should get vaccinated ASAP. This is because the HPV vaccine may help protect you against additional strains of HPV. However, for maximum protection, you should get vaccinated before you become sexually active as you may have not been exposed to HPV.
The vaccine for HPV is thought to be highly effective in offering protection against genital warts, cervical pre-cancers as well as anal and oropharyngeal cancer caused by human papillomavirus. Young teens who are not yet been exposed to the virus are strongly encouraged to get an HPV vaccination.
Please keep in mind that the HPV vaccine is not solely intended for children. This vaccine is also applicable for use by both men and women between the ages of 27 and 45, according to the US Food and Drug Administration. This will significantly protect a larger population from the numerous types of cancer that are caused by HPV.
But vaccination doesn’t guarantee lifelong protection
Even after HPV vaccination, you will still be required to undergo Pap tests. This is primarily because the HPV vaccine doesn't act as a Pap test alternative. What's more, human papillomavirus doesn't offer protection against all strains of HPV. Regular screening for penile or anal cancers among men should remain an essential part of your preventive healthcare regardless of whether you've been HPV vaccinated or not.
There is no treatment for HPV
Currently, as it stands, there is no treatment for the HPV virus itself. However, there are various treatment options for the health conditions caused by HPV.
- Genital warts can be treated through different options provided by your doctor. However, if left untreated, genital warts can either disappear, stay the same or increase in both number and size.
- Other HPV-related conditions including penile and anal cancers are also more treatable, especially when diagnosed early.
Do you have any questions regarding HPV for me? I am more than happy to answer them.
- Dunne, E. F., & Park, I. U. (2013). HPV and HPV-associated diseases. Infectious disease clinics of North America, 27(4), 765–778. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.idc.2013.09.001
- Szymonowicz, K. A., & Chen, J. (2020). Biological and clinical aspects of HPV-related cancers. Cancer biology & medicine, 17(4), 864–878. https://doi.org/10.20892/j.issn.2095-3941.2020.0370
This article was written and medically reviewed by Dr Ben, M.D on 24/05/2021