Human papilloma virus, or HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. Now, a new study confirms just how prevalent this STI really is: Nearly half of men are infected with HPV, a new study published in JAMA Oncology reveals.
After analyzing penile swabs from 1,868 men, the researchers discovered that 45 percent of them tested positive for some type of genital HPV infection. And 25 percent of these men harbored at least one strain of high-risk HPV. High-risk strains of HPV can cause cancers of the anus, penis, or oropharyngeal region—the middle part of the throat, including the soft palate, tongue, and tonsils. (High-risk HPV can also cause cervical cancer in women.)
In most cases, your body will clear high-risk HPV infections from your system within one to two years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But in some cases, the infection can persist in your body, leading to changes in your cells that can progress to cancer.
Vaccines like Gardasil and Cervarix are effective at reducing the risk of infection, but many guys aren't getting it: According to the study, only 11 percent of vaccine-eligible men have received it. And only 6 percent of the adult male population said they completed the multi-step HPV vaccine series.
Currently, the CDC recommends that young men receive the HPV vaccination through age 21. Men who have sex with men should receive the vaccine through age 26. (Learn more about the global fight against cancer with Rodale's book A World Without Cancer.)
Safe sex is key, too: While condoms can't completely protect against transmission of the virus, consistent condom use has been linked to lower chances of spreading the infection. (Here are 4 STDs you might not even know you have.)
The article "25 Percent Of Men Have Potential Cancer-Causing HPV" originally appeared on Men's Health.