Viral Analysis

Oral HPV Infection More Common in Men Than Women

Maura GillisonResearch at the OSUCCC – James shows that men are three times more likely to have an oral human papillomavirus (HPV) infection than women – findings that help explain why HPV-related oral cancers are three times more common in men than women.

Maura Gillison, MD, PhD, a medical oncologist who is a head and neck cancer specialist and member of the OSUCCC – James Viral Oncology and Cancer Control programs, led the study, which sought to determine the prevalence of oral HPV infection in the United States and to understand factors associated with infection and oropharyngeal cancer. Her team analyzed mouth-rinse samples for HPV DNA and examined data collected from 5,579 men and women who participated in the 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

“This study of oral HPV infection is the first step toward developing potential oropharyngeal cancer-prevention strategies,” Gillison says. “This is important because HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer is poised to overtake cervical cancer as the leading type of HPV-caused cancer in the United States, and we have no means to prevent or detect these cancers early.”

The researchers estimate that 7 percent of Americans between ages 14 and 69 have an oral HPV infection, with 10.1 percent of men infected versus 3.6 percent of women.

Other key findings include:

  • About 1 percent of the U.S. population is infected with HPV 16 – the type of HPV most often responsible for cervical cancer – and HPV 16 infection is five times more common in men than in women.
  • Oral HPV infection is uncommon among those with no history of sexual contact compared with those with a history of sexual contact of any type (0.9 percent versus 7.5 percent, respectively).
  • Oral HPV infection was independently associated with age, gender, number of sexual partners and current number of cigarettes smoked per day.

Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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