A recent study of Oct. 17, 2017 showed that oral HPV infections are more frequent in males. Human papilloma virus (HPV) has been in the news for some time. But this newest study may explain why oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC) is disproportionately high among men. The purpose of this study was to establish the frequency of oral HPV among men and women in a US population and to determine the genital HPV frequency in men and women.
In essence, the researchers examined a nationally representative study group from the NHANES (National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey, 2011 to 2014) study aged 18 to 69 years. They underwent an oral rinse, men had a penile swab and women had a vaginal swab. Special tests for the virus were necessary to prove the presence or the absence of HPV.
Findings of HPV infections among men and women
Oral HPV infections are more frequent in males. The rates were 11.5% in men and 3.2% in women. High-risk behavior, such as frequent partner change, was associated with oral HPV rates of 7.3% in men and 1.4% in women. The subtype HPV 16, which is a know cause for oral cancer (OPSCC) was 1.8% in men and 0.3% in women. This means that men have a 6-times higher risk of coming down with oral cancer (the OPSCC type). The frequency of HPV in same sex partners among males was 12.7%. Among females same sex partners had an HPV frequency of 3.6%.
Men who reported oral sex with a same sex partner had an HPV rate of 12.7%. Women who had oral sex with a same sex partner had an HPV rate of 3.6%. Men who had 2 or more same-sex partners had a high-risk HPV rate of 22.2%. Men who had an active genital HPV infection had a fourfold greater oral HPV infection rate (19.3%) than those men who did not have a genital HPV infection (4.4% oral HPV rate).
There were four additional risk factors that could add to a higher HPV risk:
- African American sex partners having vaginal or oral sex
- Those who smoked more than 20 cigarettes daily
- Current marijuana users
- Persons who had 16 or more lifetime vaginal or oral sex partners
This research paper showed a direct link between oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC) and the HPV virus. Of particular concern is the spread of the high-risk HPV type 16-virus strain. Those are at a higher risk who have multiple sex partners and those who engage in frequent orogenital sexual contact. They are at a higher risk of acquiring the type of oropharyngeal cancer. Additional risks are being of African origin, smoking more than 20 cigarettes and smoking marijuana. If a person has frequent sex with other partners, there is a higher risk to get oropharyngeal cancer. This study was the first to show that males have a 6-times higher risk of coming down with oral cancer than women. Adding carcinogens to the basic HPV risks (cigarette and marijuana smoking) may explain why cancer occurs more easily. More promiscuous behavior adds to the overall exposure to HPV type 16-virus. The doctor should check people with a higher risk for HPV infections more frequently for oropharyngeal cancer, as only an early diagnosis can lead to a successful treatment of cancer.