HPV in Men – How, What, Why?

November 12, 2012

HPV in Men – How, What, Why?

HPV stands for Genital Human Papillomavirus, and is very common among sexually active people. There are more than 40 different types of HPV and most sexually active individuals in the US will contract some form of the disease at some point during their lives. HPV in men will infect genital areas including the area around the penis or anus, as well as infecting the mouth and throat if care is not taken.

HPV is passed on through genital contact whether it is vaginal, anal or oral sexual activity. It is more commonly passed on during vaginal and anal intercourse, and as it usually does not present any symptoms, individuals can go for years with the disease being undetected. HPV in men who only have one sexual partner is not unheard of, so everybody should be aware of the danger.

HPV will not generally cause any symptoms or health problems in the men it affects, however some types of the disease can cause different things like cancers of the penis, anus or throat while others cause things like genital warts. It should be noted that anal cancer and rectal (or colorectal) cancer are two completely different types of cancer. Colorectal cancer is not caused by HPV and occurs more regularly than anal cancer.

HPV in men can cause genital warts in up to 1% of sexually active males at any one time in the United States. The cancers caused by HPV in men are relatively rare, with around 7,500 men each year diagnosed with HPV-related cancers, although many of the occurrences of throat cancer can be attributed to tobacco rather than the HPV disease.

HPV in men is more likely to cause HPV-related diseases in cases where the man has a weakened immune system for whatever reason. It has also been noted that there is a higher instance of HPV-related anal cancer in men who are sexually active with other men – they are around 17 times more likely to present with the disease than males who are only sexually active with females.

Although HPV in men rarely presents any symptoms, there are some cases where symptoms will appear. These mainly include anal and penile cancers. In the case of anal cancer, there may be some discharge and swollen lymph nodes, but there are often no signs that the cancer is present. In penile cancer, there may be a change in skin color or texture while later in the disease a growth or sore may appear. Another symptom is genital warts – they can appear up to months after sexual contact with an infected person, and can be one or more wart-like growths around the genital area including your upper thigh. Cancer of the throat (oropharynx) can be a symptom, and you should see a doctor if you have a constant sore throat or ear pain. A persistent cough is also a sign that you may have a type of oropharynx cancer along with unexplained weight loss or a change in your voice.

There is not currently a test available or recommended to diagnose HPV in men, although there are screening tests available to check that women are not suffering from HPV-induced cervical cancer. Men should have regular checks (some recommend annual testing) to ensure that they are not suffering from cancers of the anus or throat, and should keep an eye on their penis area for any unusual discoloration. If you have HPV-related cancer, it will be treated in the same way – with treatments such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Genital warts are usually visible, and you should visit your doctor immediately if you suspect that you have them. They can be removed surgically, frozen off or treated with medicine.

HPV does usually disappear of its own accord without causing any repercussions for your health. There is a vaccine available to lower the chances of HPV in men – it is given via 3 injections over a six month period, generally to men in the under-26 age category.

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