A large percentage of American men are infected with cancer-causing human papillomavirus or HPV, findings of a new study revealed.

Prevalence Of HPV Infection In Men And Women

About 45 percent of men in the United States are infected with sexually transmitted disease, which is just about the same percentage in women. Unlike women, however, men are more likely to stay infected as they get older.

As women age, the prevalence of HPV infection is reduced to about 22 percent but the rate remains high among men.

Study researcher Jasmine Han, from the Womack Army Medical Center, and colleagues gauged the prevalence of HPV infection among men using the data of about 1,900 men who participated in the 2013-2014 U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Samples from penile swabs were tested to determine the presence of cancer-causing HPV.

A little over 45 percent of the participants were found to be infected with the virus. The lowest prevalence of the virus was about 29 percent and this was among participants between the ages 18 and 22 years old. Researchers said that the lower rate of HPV infection among younger men could be attributed to young men being vaccinated.

The rate, however, increased to nearly 47 percent in the group of men between 23 and 27 years old. The prevalence was observed to stay high and constant as men aged. The highest rate of HPV infection, is in fact, seen in those who make up the oldest age group in the study, men between 58 and 59 years old.

Contrasting HPV Rate In Men And Women

Interestingly, the higher rate of HPV infection in older men is in contrast with what has been observed in women as HPV infection was found lower in older women compared with the younger ones.

The researchers said it is not clear why the HPV infection rate stays high in men but the prevalence drops in women. Han speculated that the HPV virus may stay in men because in men, the virus stays in the penile glands while in women, the virus lives near the surface of the vagina so it is more easily shed.

Infection May Lead To Serious Health Problems

Human papillomaviruses that infect the genital area may spread as sexually transmitted infections. Although infections go away on their own, some remain and may lead to health problems such as cancer and genital warts.

HPV Vaccination

The researchers hope that the study would raise public awareness on low HPV vaccination rate and high HPV prevalence rate particularly now that a vaccine is available that has the potential to eradicate HPV-linked cancers in both men and women.

"Our study provides the first national estimate to date of the genital HPV infection prevalence among men aged 18 to 59 years in the United States," the researchers wrote in their study, which was published in the journal JAMA Oncology on Jan. 19.

"Our study indicates that male HPV vaccination may have a greater effect on HPV infection transmission and cancer prevention in men and women than previously estimated."

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