What Men Should Know
HPV is a virus that is very common. In fact, most men and women are infected with HPV at some time in their lives. There are approximately 100 types of HPV. Some HPV types infect the genital area and may cause warts (“low-risk” HPV), while others may cause abnormal cell changes in men of the anus or penis (“high-risk” HPV) – these types are also linked with abnormal cervical cell changes in women.
The types of HPV found in the genital areas are usually passed on during sexual contact (sexually transmitted). HPV types that cause warts on the hands or feet do not cause genital warts or cervical cell changes, nor do genital HPV types generally spread outside the genital area.
Genital HPV is usually acquired by direct skin-to-skin contact during intimate sexual contact with someone who is infected. Most men and women are not aware that they have the virus. Condoms do not offer complete protection from HPV. Increasing numbers of partners increases the risk of getting HPV, but the virus is so common that having only a single lifetime partner does not assure protection. It is usually impossible to determine when or from whom HPV was caught. HPV may be detected fairly soon after exposure, or may not be found until many years later. For all these reasons, it is not helpful, nor fair, to blame your partner.
Keep in mind it is rare for “high-risk” HPV to lead to cancer. In 2010, for example, the American Cancer Society estimates only about 2,000 cases of anal cancer will occur with men and that penile cancer will account for approximately 0.2% of all cancers in males.
There are also vaccines available that prevent genital warts and are recommended for boys and young men (along with girls and young women).
While still not routinely done, anyone with a history of receptive anal sex may want to speak with his or her health care provider about having an anal Pap test. Anal cancer is uncommon, but screening can still be an important precaution – talk to your provider if you have questions.
HPV and Men Fact Sheet
As a man, what do you need to know about HPV, human papilllomavirus? This one-page fact sheet covers the basics, including how you can get it, what it can cause, and how you can reduce your risk.
If you are a healthcare provider, check out ASHA’s patient brochure, HPV: A Guide for Men.