September 4, 2013
For young gay men in the U.S., overall prevalence of HPV (human papillomavirus) infection was 70 percent, while the prevalence of HPV 16 and/or HPV 18 -- the two HPV strains most commonly associated with anal cancer -- was 37 percent, according to a new study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases. While HPV vaccination is commonly discussed for women, especially as prevention for cervical cancer, the truth about gay men, HPV and anal cancer is becoming clearer with more research.
The study followed 94 gay men in Seattle, between the ages of 16 and 30 years old, for one year. To check for HPV infection, the study participants were given three anal swabs: one at baseline, six months and 12 months. For men who had no infection at baseline, the incidence rate of any new HPV infection was 38.5 per 1000 person-month. Additionally, HPV prevalence increased for men who reported higher numbers of sexual partners.
Our findings highlight the need to immunize YMSM [young men who have sex with men] prior to their sexual debut, something that will likely require universal male immunization. At the same time, the fact that most YMSM appeared to remain susceptible to at least some HPV types included in the vaccine, catch-up immunization programs do offer YMSM some benefit.
In the U.S., the HPV vaccine Gardasil is recommended for all males between 11 and 21 years of age, and for gay men up to 26 years old. Given these study results and other research showing higher rates of anal cancer among gay men, the bottom line remains that immunization to HPV before sexual experience is best. In particular, for these study participants, "many (if not most) have been exposed to infection from one of their first few partners," the researchers said.
Have you received HPV vaccination? Have you ever had any experience with HPV? What do you know about HPV? Respond in the comments section below!
Mathew Rodriguez is the editorial project manager for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
Follow Mathew on Twitter: @mathewrodriguez.