Much of the focus on human papillomavirus (HPV) is on women, since having the virus greatly increases their risk of cervical cancer. But men can also be affected by the disease, which is spread through close human contact. Several types of HPV infection can cause genital warts, as well as certain cancers in the anogenital tract and upper aero-digestive tract.
Fortunately, most cases of HPV in men go unnoticed. Symptoms, when they do appear, typically manifest as warts. These can be found on the genital area, skin or throat.
While genital warts are the most common sign of HPV in men, the virus can also cause other health problems, including anal and penile cancers. The cancers may require surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Oropharyngeal cancer, which affects the back and sides of the throat, base of the tongue and tonsils, is another problem caused by HPV. It is linked to heavy alcohol and tobacco use, as well as to oral sex.
HPV is a widespread viral infection and can be easily passed between people through close contact, such as during oral sex. Although it is commonly referred to as a sexually transmitted disease (STI), the virus can also be spread through casual skin-to-skin contact, such as kissing or hugging. As such, many STI-negative adults have an HPV infection. The vaccine for HPV has been available to females since 2009 and will soon be offered routinely to boys and girls as part of their school vaccination programme in England.