Oral human papillomavirus infection more common in US males

Almost 7 percent of American men and women are infected orally with the human papillomavirus (HPV), new research reveals, with men showing significantly higher infection rates than women. Indeed among those between the ages of 14 and 69, men seem to face a nearly threefold greater risk than women for oral HPV infection.

The study was part of the ongoing National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). To better understand that connection, Gillison’s team sifted through data on nearly 5,600 men and women collected between 2009 and 2011 NHANES. All NHANES participants had been examined in person, during which all were tested for HPV.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on Janury 26, 2012 Dr. Maura Gillison, chair of cancer research in the department of viral oncology at Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center in Columbus reported  an overall oral HPV infection rate of 6.9 percent, with HPV-16 being the most common type.

Oral HPV incidence varied with age, however, with peak rates occurring among those between the ages of 30 and 34 (at 7.3 percent) as well as among men and women between 60 and 64 (11.4 percent). Overall, oral HPV infection hit the 10 percent mark among men. Among women it was just shy of 4 percent.

While those with a history of smoking, heavy drinking, and/or marijuana use appeared to face a higher risk for infection, sexual behavior also plays a key role in upping a person’s risk. For example, while those who had never had sex faced less than a 1 percent risk for oral HPV infection, prevalence hit 7.5 percent among those who were sexually active. And the greater the number of sexual partners, the higher the risk.

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