- Human papilloma virus (HPV) in men deserves as much consideration as it does in women.
- Although it is not as likely to cause cancer in men as in women, it can still cause cancer of the penis, anus, mouth, and throat.
- Infected men with no symptoms are the top HPV risk for women.
- HPV vaccination is now recommended for both men and women and can provide protection for both.
In the U.S., human papillomavirus (HPV) affects 40% of people in the most sexually active age group, 15 to 59. Although HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the country, there’s a popular misconception that it only poses problems for women.
While it’s true that women are more likely to develop severe complications from the infection, HPV infection in men is at least as common as it is in women, and it can lead to serious health concerns.
HPV in Men
Human papillomaviruses are a family of DNA viruses that infect the inner lining of the organs and external surfaces of the body. These viruses do not discriminate. If you expose yourself to them through sexual contact, they will infect you regardless of gender. And HPV in men can result in cancer, affecting the penis, the anus, the mouth, the throat, or the esophagus.
Over 200 types of human papillomaviruses had been identified, of which about 40 can cause complications, and a few are dangerous. HPV infects the genitals, anus, mouth, throat, esophagus, nipples, and under the fingernails, which helps to explain why it’s so easily spread through any type of sexual contact.
Though it’s true that women are more at risk of severe complications, such as cervical cancer, men don’t get a free pass regarding HPV infections. Men also represent the main risk of HPV infection for women — often without realizing they have it.
How Do Men Get Infected?
Men get infected with HPV the same way women do: through oral, anal, or vaginal sex. When you have sex with someone, you can get HPV even through close skin-to-skin contact.
You don’t have to sleep around to get HPV. You can get infected even if you only have sex with a single person. However, as with any STI, having multiple sexual partners increases your chance of becoming infected with HPV.
HPV Symptoms in Men
According to the CDC, the majority of HPV-positive men never develop symptoms, and the infection tends to resolve by itself.
The symptoms of HPV in men appear on the organs the virus usually affects, like the mouth, throat, penis, anus, or scrotum. These symptoms can include:
- Unusual growths
If you notice anything unusual in any of these locations, seek medical help right away. If the symptoms don’t resolve, you may be at risk for penile, anal, or oral cancer. While the risk of developing cancer from HPV is lower for men, it is not zero, particularly for those with weakened immune systems and those who have frequent anal sex.
The cause of HPV infection for both men and women is sexual contact. Although it is theoretically possible to become infected with HPV through skin-to-skin contact, oral, vaginal, and anal sex are the most frequent causes of infection.
It can be difficult to diagnose human papillomavirus in men, as there are no tests and the symptoms may take years to appear. What’s more, in many cases, the virus produces no noticeable symptoms.
Doctors can use penile swabs and brushes to determine whether a tested person is infected. They can sometimes diagnose HPV based on its symptoms, like the warts it causes.
At this time, the CDC doesn’t recommend routine screening for HPV in men. Nor does it recommend testing for diseases that may result from HPV before symptoms appear.
HPV Risk Factors
Researchers don’t yet understand why HPV causes symptoms and complications in some men but not others.
However, the condition is so widespread that the CDC believes nearly all sexually active people get infected within a few months of becoming active. In the U.S., around 6.2 million people acquire the infection every year. It’s difficult to assess how many men may have the disease because so many have no symptoms. However, if you have sex with someone, you expose yourself to infection risk.
If you have multiple sexual partners, you’re exposing yourself to more potential sources of infection, so your risk is greater. Those who engage in risky sexual behaviors are also at higher risk of HPV infection.
HPV and Cancer
HPV infections that linger may cause changes in the body that can lead to cancer. Women are more likely to develop cancer from HPV than men because the cervix, vulva, and vagina are biologically more vulnerable to HPV-related cancer than the penis and the anus.
Men can, however, develop penile cancer, and their risk of anal cancer is the same as women’s. Other cancers that can result from HPV infections are cancers of the mouth, throat, and tonsils.
HPV-related cancers are rare in men, although those with impaired immune systems are more likely to develop HPV-associated complications.
HPV and Genital Warts
Cancer isn’t the only health concern men need to worry about. HPV-infected men can also develop penile and anal warts. The HPV viruses that cause warts tend to be the lower-risk ones, so men need to be vigilant.
There is currently no treatment for HPV in men. And the CDC does not recommend treatment for those without symptoms.
Doctors only treat patients who present with symptoms like genital warts. Their goal is to remove the warts, thereby bringing the infection under control. Some of the efficient wart-removing solutions are:
- Freezing them off with liquid nitrogen
- Putting benzoin-based podophyllin resin on them
- Using salicylic acid or fluorouracil on them
- Performing surgery
With the exception of surgery, patients can treat themselves at home with prescriptions from their doctors.
Warts tend to re-appear after treatment. In that case, doctors recommend additional treatment.
Using condoms correctly is your first line of defense against HPV and other STIs. We know condoms offer good protection, but doctors caution that you can get infected with HPV through areas of the skin a condom does not cover.
The only way to gain full protection against HPV is by getting a vaccine. Gardasil is an HPV vaccine derived from purified virus-like particles. The FDA originally approved this solution for women aged 9-26, but HPV vaccines are no longer for women only. In 2018, the FDA expanded their approval to include males.
The CDC now recommends that everyone, regardless of gender, be routinely vaccinated at age 11 or 12.
eDrugstore Can Help
Sexual behaviors are inherently risky. Taking care of your sexual health should be one of your top priorities health-wise, especially if you are a sexually active male.
We carry medications to help you maintain your sexual health and treat STIs should you become infected.
Our U.S.-licensed doctors offer you a free consultation and can provide you with the prescriptions you need.
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James spent the better part of the last decade studying and writing about the physiology of sleep and its correlations with dreams. He studied various drugs, natural substances, and hallucinogens that can impact the intensity and frequency of dreams.
For two years, he busted dietary supplement scams, analyzing various performance-enhancing compounds, nootropics, etc.