Anal HPV infection common in heterosexual men
Contrary to what's traditionally been believed, anal infection with the virus that causes genital warts is common in heterosexual men.
Till recently, there had been little interest in studying the prevalence of anal infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV) in men who have sex exclusively, or primarily, with women - the belief being that they were unlikely to harbour an anal infection. There are more than 100 strains of HPV, some of which cause genital or anal warts. In most people, the immune system clears the infection fairly rapidly. However, persistent infection with certain HPV strains can eventually lead to cancer in some cases. HPV is best known as the primary cause of cervical cancer, but it can also cause certain other tumours, including anal cancer.
To see the prevalence of HPV infection in heterosexual men, researchers identified 902 men, aged between 18 and 70 years from Brazil and Mexico. Overall, 12 percent had a current anal HPV infection, with the prevalence being similar in each country; genetic testing showed that 7 percent of all men carried a cancer-related HPV strain. All participants had a history of having sex exclusively with women in recent months, though some claimed to have had sex with a man in the past - ranging from 6.5 percent of the U.S. men to 17 percent of the Brazilian men.
Certain factors appeared to raise a man's risk of HPV infection. It was found that men who had multiple (10 or more) female sex partners in their lives had a three-fold higher risk than those who'd had one or two partners. And men who had reported as ever having sex with another man were twice as likely to have an anal HPV infection as compared to those who reported only female partners.
The above findings support the notion that HPV is an easily transmitted and probably unavoidable infection in sexually active people. The findings should put to rest the myth that anal HPV infection occurs only in men who have anal sex.
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