A bottle of the Human Papillomavirus vaccination is seen at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

HPV Vaccination Rates Remain Low, Infection Rates High Among Men

According to a press release summary of new research released by the Journal of the American Medical Association(JAMA), rates for the sexually transmitted disease Human papillomavirus (HPV) remain high among men and vaccination rates are low despite a vaccine being available.

“Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, as well as a cause of various cancers, and a new study published online by JAMA Oncology estimates the overall prevalence of genital HPV infection in men ages 18 to 59,” the JAMA press release reads.

JAMA notes that male vaccination programs have been widely available in the United States since 2009 but that vaccination rates nevertheless remain low.

“The overall genital HPV infection prevalence was 45.2 percent,” the press release continues. “In vaccine-eligible men, HPV vaccination coverage was 10.7 percent.”

Jasmine J. Han, M.D., of the Womack Army Medical Center, Fort Bragg, N.C., and her coauthors relied on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 2013-2014, which surveyed nearly 2,000 men who self-collected samples from penile swabs for HPV genotyping testing, according to JAMA.

While prevalence was higher among men over the age of 23, the disease was common among men of all age groups.

“The overall genital HPV infection prevalence appears to be widespread among all age groups of men and the HPV vaccination coverage is low,” JAMA concludes.

Roughly 29 percent of men aged 18-22 were infected with the virus, while 47 percent of men over the age of 23 were infected. Some of the discrepancy was perhaps due to the higher vaccination rate among younger men, but other factors, such as increased numbers of sexual partners among the older men, could be a factor as well.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that “HPV is so common that nearly all sexually-active men and women get it at some point in their lives.”

It is generally considered a non-life-threatening disease and often goes away on its own without any symptoms. However, in cases where it does not go away it has been linked to genital warts and cancer, according to the CDC.

The National Cancer Institute advises that “high-risk HPVs cause several types of cancer,” including cervical cancer, anal cancer, oropharyngeal cancers (affecting the middle sections of the throat, soft palate, base of the tongue and tonsils), penile cancer and vaginal cancer.

Almost all cases of cervical cancer and anal cancer are caused by high-risk strands of HPV, as are a majority of penile, vaginal, and oropharyngeal cancers, according to the National Cancer Institute.

These types of cancer are still relatively uncommon. Overall, HPV accounts for only approximately three percent of cancer cases among women in the United States and two percent of cancer cases among men in the United States.

Boys and girls can begin getting vaccinated for HPV at the age 11, according to the CDC.

“Catch-up vaccines are recommended for males through age 21 and for females through age 26, if they did not get vaccinated when they were younger,” the CDC page adds.

There is no test for determining if someone has HPV. However, there are tests to detect cervical cancers or other forms of cancers.

Genital warts is the most common sign of an HPV infection, but not all strands of the virus cause genital warts and not everyone who carries the disease will develop them. A person who contracts the virus can also go years without an outbreak of warts, “making it hard to know when you first became infected,” the CDC notes.

For more information on HPV, its signs, symptoms, treatments and vaccine, you can visit the CDC Genital HPV Infection – Fact Sheet page.

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