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July 2018

Oral HPV in Men Is On the Rise

Oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC) is a cancer that affects the back of the throat. It’s now the most common cancer related to human papillomavirus (HPV), surpassing cervical cancer numbers. And OPSCC affects about 4 times more men than women, according to a new study in Annals of Internal Medicine. Those numbers are expected to grow over the next few decades. Health experts believe HPV causes 7 in 10 cases of oropharyngeal cancers.

Man talking with his doctor

Men have higher rates of oral HPV

In the general population of the U.S., oral HPV infections are considerably more common in men than in women. While 7 million men have oral HPV, only 1.4 million women are diagnosed with the infection. Also, the presence of HPV 16, one of the two main types of HPV linked to cancer, is 6 times greater in men than in women.

According to the study, men with the highest risk for oral HPV:

  • Had more than 16 oral sex partners

  • Also had genital HPV

  • Smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day

  • Had two more or same-sex oral sex partners

HPV vaccine recommended for all

According to the CDC, the HPV vaccine was developed to prevent genital cancers. But it could also prevent oropharyngeal cancers. The vaccine is recommended for all 11- to 12-year-old boys and girls. Older teens and young adults up to age 26 may also be eligible for the vaccine. If you’re too old for the vaccine, using condoms or dental dams may help. Ask your doctor about your options.


For more information

The CDC has more information on HPV and men.

Online Medical Reviewer: McDonough, Brian, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 11/27/2017
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