The first national estimate suggests that nearly half of US men have genital infections caused by a sexually transmitted virus and that one in four has strains linked with several cancers, the AP reports. Most human papillomavirus infections cause no symptoms and disappear without treatment, and most adults will get an HPV infection at some point in their lives. But high-risk HPV can cause cancer in the mouth and upper throat, cervical cancer in women, and other cancers; less harmful strains can cause genital warts. Vaccines can prevent infections, but experts say vaccination rates in pre-teens and young adults are too low. High-risk HPV poses cancer risks to people who are infected and to their sexual partners, who can catch HPV even when the infections are silent.
The new estimate comes from an analysis of a 2013-14 national health survey; nearly 2,000 men ages 18 to 59 were tested for HPV, with results published Thursday in the journal JAMA Oncology. Researchers say it's the first published estimate for genital HPV infections in men. The 45% rate is higher than previously reported rates for women, per lead author Dr. Jasmine Han. HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer, but HPV-related mouth and throat cancers are becoming more common, especially among men, who aren't routinely screened for the virus. A University of Chicago head and neck cancer specialist says the results show doctors and parents need to step up efforts to vaccinate boys and young men and get over concerns that the HPV vaccine will lead to risky sexual behavior. (Read more human papillomavirus stories.)