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October 18, 2017

About 1 in 9 men has oral HPV infection, study finds

Daily Briefing

    The prevalence of oral human papillomavirus (HPV) infections in 2014 was higher among men than women, according to a study published Tuesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

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    For the study, researchers reviewed data from CDC's National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey on U.S. adults ages 18 to 69 to determine the prevalence of oral HPV infection and the concordance of oral and genital HPV infection from 2011 to 2014.

    Study findings

    The researchers estimated 11 million men and 3.2 million women had an oral HPV infection in 2011 to 2014. The researchers found oral HPV was more prevalent in men, at 11.5 percent, than in women, 3.2 percent. They also found men were six times more likely than women to have HPV 16—strains of the virus that can lead to cancers in the throat, tongue, and parts of the head and neck, the New York Times' "Well" reports. For instance, the study found seven million men and 1.4 million women had the riskier strains.

    According to the study, the rates of oral HPV infection were especially high among men who had:

    • Genital HPV infections;
    • Several oral sexual partners; and
    • Sex with men.

    In addition, the researchers found the predicted probability of high-risk oral HPV infection was higher among:

    • Blacks;
    • Current marijuana users;
    • Individuals who smoked more than 20 cigarettes daily; and
    • Individuals who reported 16 or more lifetime vaginal or oral sex partners.


    The researchers said the data show that the United States needs to improve prevention and screening efforts for oral HPV.

    Ashish Deshmukh, a professor at the University of Florida and the study's senior author, said there is an effective HPV vaccine available to children starting at the age of 11 or 12. Deshmukh said it is "crucial that parents vaccinate boys as well as girls."

    Kalyani Sonawane, a professor at the University of Florida and the study's lead author, said it is important that individuals change their behaviors as well, noting that "[t]he difference in oral HPV infection between smokers and nonsmokers is staggering" (Bakalar, "Well," New York Times, 10/16; Joseph, "Morning Rounds," STAT News, 10/17; Sifferlin, Time, 10/16; Sonawane et al., Annals of Internal Medicine, 10/17).

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    Men make up nearly 50% of the total population, but spend approximately 25% less—over $1,000 per person less—on health care annually than women.

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