HPV in Men: What You Should Know About This Infection

Man in bed looking upset

Story at-a-glance -

  • Many people think HPV is an illness that is prevalent only among women — but on the contrary, men are also prone to this type of infection
  • Males can acquire HPV in the same way that females do: through direct and intimate skin-to-skin and/or sexual contact. It can spread through anal, vaginal or oral intercourse, whether with a member of the opposite sex or with another man

Many people think HPV is an illness that is prevalent only among women — but on the contrary, men are also prone to this type of infection. In 2008 alone, it was said that 39.2 million men in the U.S. were infected with HPV, and 9 million of these cases were men between ages 15 and 24.1 Here’s everything you need to know about human papillomavirus (HPV) infection in men.

How Can Males Become Infected With HPV? 

Males can acquire HPV in the same way that females do: through direct and intimate skin-to-skin and/or sexual contact. It can spread through anal, vaginal or oral intercourse, whether with a member of the opposite sex or with another man. HPV can lie dormant in a man’s body, so it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly when (or from whom) the infection was acquired. And even if a male is asymptomatic (meaning there are no visible symptoms present), he can still pass on the virus to his partner.2

HPV infection in men can resolve without any medical intervention, typically within two years. In fact, 90 percent of all HPV infections in men and women do not cause any harm, as they’re usually cleared up by the person’s immune system.3 Noteworthy is that the virus clears up more easily in men, as compared to women.4

HPV Symptoms in Men: Watch Out for These Indicators and Risk Factors

In some cases, however, HPV can cause symptoms to appear. In both men and women, the most common indicators are genital warts, which can be seen growing on the penis, testicles, anus (in or around it), thighs and/or groin area.

These warts can be either grouped or singular growths, and may be either flat, raised or shaped like cauliflowers; they do not hurt at all. In some cases, such as in men who engage in oral sex, the warts may appear on the back of their throat.5 The warts also may not appear immediately — it sometimes takes weeks or months after sexual contact with an infected person before they manifest.6

Studies show men and women share the same risks of getting HPV, with the most important risk being multiple sex partners.7 Other risk factors include smoking and alcohol consumption.8

With oropharyngeal HPV, tobacco use, “including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco or snuff, is the single largest risk factor for head and neck cancer,” according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).9 In addition, there are three risk factors that are said to increase men’s risk of getting HPV, which are:10

Being uncircumcised

Having a weak immune system due to an organ transplant or HIV infection

Engaging in sexual intercourse (anal sex) or any type of sexual activity with other men

Complications Linked to HPV in Men

There are over 200 HPV strains, and while most of these are low-risk and will not present symptoms, there are 30 or so high-risk types that can lead to severe complications, namely cancer of the anus or penis. This is typically rare among healthy men, however.

Sexually active homosexuals and bisexuals should take caution, though, as they have a seventeenfold higher risk of anal cancer compared to heterosexual males. HIV-positive males also have a higher risk of getting this type of cancer.11 Men are also more likely to develop pharyngeal cancer than women.12

What Are the HPV Treatment Options for Men?

Because there’s no current cure for the human papillomavirus itself, most treatments for this illness address the primary symptoms, namely the genital warts. Prescriptions creams are usually prescribed, although some physicians may recommend surgically removing or freezing the warts.13 Whichever technique is advised for your condition, make sure that you discuss the potential risks involved before agreeing to the procedure.

Some physicians discourage treating the warts early, as they mostly disappear on their own. It may also take a bit of time before all the warts appear. Hence, treating a wart as soon as it shows up may be impractical, as other warts may appear later on, and another round of removal may be needed.14

MORE ABOUT HPV

HPV: Introduction

What Is HPV?

Oral HPV

How Is HPV Transmitted?

HPV Vaccine

HPV in Men

HPV in Women

HPV Types

HPV Causes

HPV Symptoms

HPV Warts

HPV Treatment

HPV Test

How to Get Rid of HPV

Living with HPV

Does HPV Go Away?

How Do You Get HPV?

Is HPV Curable?

Is HPV Contagious?

How Long Does HPV Last?

HPV FAQ

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