HPV infection commonly causes skin or mucous membrane growths (warts). Certain types of HPV infection cause cervical cancers. More than 100 varieties of human papillomavirus (HPV) exist.
Different types of HPV infection cause warts on different parts of your body. For example, some types of HPV infection cause plantar warts on the feet, while others cause warts that mostly appear on the face or neck.
Most HPV infections don’t lead to cancer. But some types of genital HPV can cause cancer of the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina (cervix). Other types of cancers, including cancers of the anus, penis, vagina, vulva and back of the throat (oropharyngeal), have been linked to HPV infection.
In the report, published by the National Center for Health Statistics, findings indicate a high-risk strain of the virus has infected 25.1 percent of men and 20.4 percent of women. Approximately 9000 cases of HPV-related cancers are diagnosed in men annually, more specifically, 63 percent of penile, 91 percent of anal, and 72 percent of oropharyngeal cancers, other studies have shown.
Researchers suggest that the new data creates a sense of urgency to drive adolescents to get vaccinated, particularly young men. “If we can get 11- and 12-year-olds to get the vaccine, we’ll make some progress,” Geraldine McQuillan, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and lead author of the new study said.
Unfortunately, most people who have a high-risk type of HPV will never show any signs of the infection until it’s already caused serious health problems. That’s why regular checkups are so important — testing is the only way to know for sure if you’re at risk for cancer from HPV. Testing can find HPV and abnormal cell changes before they cause problems, so you can get treatment to stay healthy. In most cases, cervical cancer is preventable if your doctor catches the warning signs early.
A Pap test, sometimes called a Pap smear, finds abnormal cells on your cervix caused by HPV — but it doesn’t directly test for cancer or HPV. If a Pap test finds abnormal cells on your cervix, your doctor can monitor or treat them so they don’t turn into something more serious. An HPV test finds high-risk types of HPV on your cervix that can possibly lead to cancer. Your doctor can tell you which tests you need and how often you should get them.
There isn’t a test for high-risk HPV in the vulva, penis, anus, or throat, and HPV itself doesn’t have any symptoms. If it becomes cancer, then there may be some symptoms.
Penile cancer — cancer of the penis — might show symptoms like changes in color or thickness of the skin of your penis, or a painful sore might show up on your penis.
Anal cancer might cause anal bleeding, pain, itching, or discharge, or changes in bowel habits (pooping).
Vulvar cancer — cancer of the vulva — might show symptoms like changes in color/thickness of the skin of your vulva. There may be chronic pain, itching, or there may be a lump.
Throat cancer might cause a sore throat, ear pain that doesn’t go away, constant coughing, pain or trouble swallowing or breathing, weight loss, or a lump or mass in your neck.
“You need to give it before kids become sexually active, before they get infected,” Dr. McQuillan said. “By the time they’re in their mid-20s, people are infected and it’s too late. This is a vaccine against cancer — that’s the message.”
Shockingly, in men who were eligible for vaccination, only 10.7 percent had received the vaccine. “The overall genital HPV infection prevalence appears to be widespread among all age groups of men, and the HPV vaccination coverage is low,” the study’s researchers concluded.
Meanwhile, the highest rate of infection, 33.7 percent, was found among non-Hispanic Blacks; the lowest, 11.9 percent, among Asians. As for genital HPV infections, 21.6 percent of Whites and 21.7 percent of Hispanics, showed the highest rate of infection.
Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HPV is so common that nearly all men and women will get it at some point during their lives – particularly in their early 20s. While the virus is mainly contracted through vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone exhibiting symptoms, the agency warns that it can be passed on even when the infected person has no symptoms.
It’s important to note, that the new data is just a snapshot of the commonness of active oral infections from 2011 through 2014, and active genital infections in 2013 and 2014, The New York Times reports.
“One of the most striking things that we really want people to know is that high-risk HPV is common — common in the general population,” Dr. McQuillan added.
The CDC recommends routine screening for cervical cancer for all women ages 21 to 65 years old, noting that adults are not normally screened for HPV alone. In fact, there is no HPV test available for men. However, a test is available for women, to be used in conjunction with a pap test.
Adolescents and young adults of either sex on the other hand should get vaccinated against HPV recommended through age 26, according to recommendations from the CDC and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.