Oral human papillomavirus infection, or HPV, is common among U.S. men, affecting about one in nine, overall. The prevalence is much higher among men who have had many lifetime oral sexual partners, men who reported having sex with men, and men with concurrent genital HPV infection. The findings are published in Annals of Internal Medicine.
HPV infection causes cancer at several sites in the human body, including the throat, anus, penis, and vagina. The most common cancer related to HPV infection is oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC), a type of head and neck cancer that is disproportionately prevalent in men. While prophylactic HPV vaccination may protect against infection and has the potential to reverse the rise in this type of cancer among men, uptake is low and many men are over the eligibility age of 26 years. For this reason, epidemiologic studies on oral HPV infection are crucial to guide the design and development of alternative OPSCC prevention strategies. Examining the relationship between HPV infections occurring at different anatomical sites also is also important to understanding HPV transmission dynamics.
A team of researchers led by the Department of Health services Research, Management and Policy at the University of Florida used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to determine the prevalence of oral HPV infection and also the concordance of oral and genital HPV infection among U.S. men and women. The data showed that the overall prevalence of oral HPV infection was high among men with almost 11 million men had any HPV infection. Almost 2 million men had oncogenic HPV 16 infection; oral HPV was common among men with genital HPV. The authors conclude that future research needs to be prioritized to improve targeted prevention and advances in screening and early detection procedures to combat head and neck cancer in this high-risk group.