HPV, or the human papillomavirus, is more common in the United States than any other sexually transmitted infection. Some of the health effects that HPV causes can be prevented with the HPV vaccine. The following facts answer some questions about HPV in males.
What is HPV?
HPV is an STI, or sexually transmitted infection. This common STI affects around 40% of males between the ages of 15 and 59. Although some types of HPV can cause health issues, many do not cause any symptoms. HPV is not the same virus as HSV herpes or HIV.
How Do Men Catch HPV?
Males can get this virus via vaginal, oral or anal sex with someone who has HPV. It can also spread by close skin to skin contact during sexual activity. Even if the infected person has no symptoms, it can still be spread.
Anyone who is sexually active can catch HPV, even if they have only been intimate with one person. It is possible for symptoms to appear many years after sexual contact with an infected person, making it difficult to determine when you first caught it.
The majority of men with HPV never have symptoms, as the infection typically goes away after a while. However, if it does not go away by itself, it can produce genital warts and/or some types of cancer.
If you notice anything unusual or new on your penis, anus, scrotum, throat, or mouth, it is a good idea to discuss this with your doctor.
Possible HPV symptoms can include:
- Unusual growths
Does HPV Always Cause Health Problems?
The majority of cases will go away by themselves and not cause any health problems. This is not always the case though, and sometimes the HPV infection can cause warts on the genitals as well as some types of cancer. It is not known why some people experience health problems from HPV and others do not.
Genital Warts Identification
Genital warts typically appear as a single bump or group of bumps around the genitals. They can be large or small, flat or raised, or cauliflower-shaped. They might stay the same, grow in number or size, or go away by themselves.
A doctor is usually able to diagnose genital warts by taking a look at them. Even after treatment, the warts can come back. The varieties of HPV that produce genital warts are not the same as the ones causing cancer.
Can HPV Lead to Cancer?
Sometimes it can. HPV is not a type of cancer but it can cause bodily changes which can lead to cancer. An HPV infection will probably go away by itself, but if it does not, cancer might grow, including the following types:
- Penile cancer in men
- Cervical cancer in women
- Oropharyngeal cancer in the base of the tongue, tonsils or back of the throat
- Anal cancer in men and women
Any of those can be caused by an HPV infection that did not go away by itself. Cancer is slow-growing and the diagnoses can come years or even decades after the initial HPV infection. There is no way to determine which HPV patients will end up getting cancer and which will not.
How Common is Cancer Caused by HPV in Males?
It is not common, although some men are more likely to develop cancer after HPV including:
- Those who receive anal sex. They might get anal cancer.
- Those with a weak immune system including men with HIV.
Can Men Be Tested for HPV?
There is currently no test for HPV in men. HPV screening in men is not recommended by CDC, nor is routine screening for diseases caused by HPV unless there are symptoms. Some doctors do offer anal pap smears for men with a higher risk for anal cancer, including those who receive anal sex or have HIV. If you have concerns or symptoms, talk to your doctor.
Is There Treatment for HPV or for Problems Developing from HPV?
There is no treatment for HPV but there are treatments for disease that develop from an HPV infection. Your doctor can prescribe medication to treat genital warts. Cancers resulting from HPV are easier to treat if discovered early. Visit www.cancer.org for further information.
How to Minimize the Risk of HPV
There are three things you can do to lower your risk of getting HPV:
- Get the HPV vaccination, which is both effective and safe. This vaccine can protect men against genital warts as well as some cancers caused by HPV. It is best to get this vaccine before ever having sex.
- Use condoms correctly every time you have sex. This reduces the chances of catching any STI, not only HPV. Condoms do not cover every area HPV can infect so they are not 100% guaranteed to prevent it.
- Build your immune system with a healthy diet, plenty of sleep, exercise, and regular supplementation with AHCC that’s been proven to strengthen immunity and fight against certain strains of HPV.
Who Should Get the HPV Vaccine?
This vaccination is recommended in the United States for:
- Boys and girls from the age of 11 or 12 (sometimes earlier)
- Anyone up to the age of 26 if not already vaccinated
The vaccine is not recommended for anyone over 26, although people up to the age of 45 who have not been vaccinated can get it after talking with their doctor about their risk of HPV and whether the vaccine would offer them any benefits.
There are typically fewer benefits of the HPV vaccination for those between 27 and 45 years of age, since most adults who have been sexually active have already been exposed. Also, the vaccination does not target every type of HPV.
Having a new sex partner at any age is a risk factor for HPV. Those in mutually monogamous, long term relationships are unlikely to get HPV.
How Does HPV Affect Your Health or Your Partner’s?
See your healthcare provider if you or your partner notice anything unusual or new (such as lumps, sores, warts, or growths) on your/their:
You and your partner might like to get tested for other STIs even if you have no symptoms. If either of you have genital warts, do not have sex again until they have cleared up. It is not known how long someone is contagious with HPV after the warts have gone away.
HPV and Your Relationship
An HPV infection will more than likely be temporary. Someone can carry HPV for years before noticing any symptoms or health issues. If you or your partner are diagnosed with HPV or a disease caused by HPV, it is not possible to determine:
- How long you have had it
- Which one of you caught it from the other
HPV does not mean one of you has had sex outside of the relationship and it is always a good idea for couples to talk openly with one another about their sexual health and STI risks.