A new study finds that half of men in America are infected with the HPV virus. Dr. Jon LaPook reports on the growing concern that the virus in men could be responsible for an increase in head and neck cancers.
HPV Affects Half Of U.S. Men
A study out [yesterday] in The Lancet by Moffitt Cancer Center researcher Anna Giuliano, Ph.D., and her colleagues finds that 50 percent of men ages 18 to 70 in Brazil, Mexico, and the U.S. have genital infection with human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the virus that causes cervical cancer in women. It also causes warts and cancer of the genitals and anus in both men and women. Over the past several years, researchers have realized that the virus can also cause cancer of the head and neck.
Aimee R. Kreimer, Ph.D., of the National Cancer Institute, estimates that about 65 percent of the approximately 8,000 cancers of the tonsils and base of the tongue (oropharynx) seen in the U.S. in 2010 were from HPV infection; eighty percent of these are in men. The rates for HPV-associated cancers like these are increasing; for sites like the mouth and larynx that are associated with tobacco and alcohol use, the rates are decreasing (though still too high since too many people still smoke and abuse alcohol).
An infection rate of 50 percent for a virus that can cause cancer sounds scary. But knowing a few more facts about HPV helps put the risk in perspective. About 90 percent of men and women infected with HPV virus get rid of it on their own within about two years. There are many different strains of HPV — some that cause cancer and some that don’t. Only about 6 percent of men have genital infection with HPV 16 — the strain linked to more than 90 percent of cancers of the head and neck. And only about 0.6 percent of men have HPV 16 in specimens taken from their mouths; what percentage of those men go on to develop head and neck cancer is unknown. Read more »
Not all skin cancers are from sun exposure. Viruses such as human papilloma virus (HPV), the virus that causes genital warts, also cause skin cancer. Skin cancer from HPV develops on genital skin in both men and women. It’s rarely talked about, but it’s important and can be deadly.
Did you know that half of all deaths from skin cancer other than melanoma are from genital skin cancer? You probably also didn’t know that women are more likely to die from genital skin cancer as they are from skin cancer that developed from sun exposure (again, excluding melanoma).
We dermatologists are inexhaustible when it comes to warning people about the dangers of sun exposure, but we should also be warning people about the dangers of genital warts. HPV protection, which includes HPV vaccines, is as important as sun protection in preventing death from non-melanoma skin cancer.
Genital warts can lead to deadly skin cancer. If your dermatologist has not checked your genital skin, be sure your primary care physician or gynecologist does. This is especially important, because unlike other sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) which often have symptoms, HPV or genital warts often don’t. It may be embarrassing, but it could save your life.
Mechai Viravaidya has been fighting poverty and disease in Southeast Asia through innovative promotions of safe sex practices. In this TED talk, he gives an amusing overview of how Thailand went from seven children per family to 1.5 in less than four decades and a 90 percent reduction in HIV infection rates from 1991 to 2003.
*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*
People, people, people: If you don’t understand how birth control works, you shouldn’t be having sex. What happened to the old days when the boyfriend was expected to sit through the video and conversation about all the types of birth control during the appointment at Planned Parenthood?
A friend sent me a link to the funniest video of men (trying to) explain how birth control works — it’s worth viewing for the laughs. These are all adult men who have some serious misconceptions about how birth control works, but “lady business” as a euphemism for vagina may become part of my vocabulary!
It’s no wonder that the United States has some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections — our youth are ignorant about how to prevent them. Please talk to your teens about birth control.
Remember that the teens who know the most about sexuality tend to be the ones who don’t have sex. How’s that for motivation to talk to your teens?
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