Arizona: Study Links HPV Virus to Rare Cancer in Heterosexual Men
July 23, 2008
While the risks of human papillomavirus (HPV) to women are well-documented, preliminary research shows the virus may pose a cancer risk to heterosexual men, too.
Most people who contract HPV resolve the infection on their own. Certain HPV strains can cause genital warts, and some types are linked to cervical cancer in women and to anal cancer in gay men. According to CDC, gay and bisexual men are 17 times more likely to develop HPV-related anal cancer than heterosexual men.
Among 222 sexually active men reporting exclusive lifelong heterosexuality, about 25 percent had anal HPV infection, according to preliminary results from a joint study conducted by the University of Arizona (UA) Cancer Center and the Tampa-based H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute. Among those infected, one-third had high-risk HPV, although it was unclear whether the strains were temporary or persistent, said Alan Nyitray, the study's lead UA investigator. The results need confirmation in a larger study, he added.
"We've primarily been talking about HPV in the context of cervical cancer, so I think it's understandable that men have been less concerned about it," Nyitray said. "But men play a role in transmitting the virus, so they should be concerned."
With the help of a two-year, $171,000 grant, the cancer center will study HPV among 1,200 heterosexual men from the United States, Mexico, and Brazil.
"Maybe it's just a transitory virus that doesn't pose a risk," said Nyitray. "From that perspective, [an HPV] vaccine wouldn't be seen as helpful." But that remains a question to be answered, he said.
Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)
7.08.2008; Aaron Mackey