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High alcohol intake ups risk of HPV in men

Anything in excess is bad. In the case of men and HPV, a study has found that risks increase when high alcohol intake is involved.

Alcohol consumption has been suggested to impair the immune system as it initially responds to and develops resulting immunity to an infection. Furthermore, habitual drinking has been shown to increase susceptibility to viral hepatitis, tuberculosis, septicaemia, and bacterial pneumonia. Because of these reasons, researchers at the Moffitt Cancer Center wanted to explore the relationship between drinking patterns and HPV infections.

Published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, the study gathered data from more than 1,300 men in Florida, the analysis of which is included in a larger international study known as the HIM Study.

DNA analysis was done on the subjects to confirm an HPV infection and participants were made to answer detailed surveys about their sexual activity, smoking habits, and alcohol consumption.

Results from the study showed that those who consumed the most alcohol (an average amount of over 9.9 grams each day) had significantly higher risks of HPV infections.

Smoking habits didn't factor in because significant risk was observed both in men who smoke and those who have never puffed on a cigarette.

It also didn't matter how many sexual partners the participants had because significant risk remained as long as high alcohol intake was in the equation.

Because of this, researchers deduced that there was greater risk for HPV infections in men who drank a lot because alcohol impaired their immune systems. With their bodies not able to properly respond to the threat, risks of chronic infection were therefore greater.

"Our findings provide additional support to current public health messaging regarding the importance of moderate alcohol consumption, smoking cessation, and safe sex practices. Additional research is needed to replicate the current findings before clinical interventions can be recommended," explained Matthew Schabath, Ph.D., and assistant member of Moffitt's Cancer Epidemiology Program.

A virus that's commonly sexually transmitted, HPV infects over six million individuals every year in the United States. The virus causes genital warts in both sexes and contributes to cancers in women, like anal, vaginal, and cervical cancers. Latest research shows that some cancers in men may also be caused by HPV, such as oropharyngeal, anal, and penile cancer, but data remains limited about the infection in men.

Supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Cancer Institute, the study hopefully sheds more light on the biological mechanisms and epidemiology of HPV in men.

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