Although human papillomavirus (HPV) in men is often misunderstood, it is a growing medical condition found in the oral cavity. Its treatment and risk factors have only recently caused more awareness, particularly among men over the age of 55.
How Common Is It?
According to the Ohio State Comprehensive Cancer Center, roughly one in 10 American men have HPV, and rates of mouth and throat cancers as a result of the virus have increased by over 200 percent in the last 15 years. HPV is easily spread from person to person via intimate and sexual contact. Most patients that have an HPV infection are not aware of it and, by extension, spread the virus quickly.
What Are Its Typical Symptoms?
Because most HPV viruses are found in the base of the throat, it is somewhat difficult to distinguish the true symptoms of the virus's effects on the mouth. The most familiar result of HPV is an oral-pharyngeal (throat) cancer. Common symptoms include lumps in the throat, neck or base of the tongue, a persistent hoarse cough or sore throat, difficulty swallowing or eating and the weight loss often associated with these symptoms.
What's the Primary Cause of Oropharyngeal Cancer?
HPV in men and the development of oropharyngeal cancer is about three times less prominent in females of the same age, and the cause ultimately comes from trends in those of a certain age. There has been a recent surge, according to Michael Medina, MD, in the younger population due to the approximately 80 percent of all sexually active people ages 14 to 44 having had oral sex.
What Can I Do to Prevent It?
There are three ways to reduce your risk of getting HPV:
Barriers such as condoms and rubber dams. The daily use of Colgate® Peroxyl® oral rinse has proven to be effective in preventing oral lesions, which can come as an onset symptom of HPV.
Vaccinations such as Gardasil have been proven effective for girls and boys as early as the teenage years to prevent the occurrence of HPV and related oral cancers, states the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Routine oral cancer screenings by your dentist, at least annually, including a thorough exam of the base of the tongue and throat.
In addition, consider public education about the symptoms and causes of HPV, as well as related oral cancers, to help you identify early warning signs.
The good news is oral cancer, when detected early, yields a prognosis for recovery that is very good. That's why it is so important to seek regular dental care, wherein a screening can be performed to check for mouth cancer, HPV and numerous other preventable, treatable oral conditions.
For more information about HPV and oral cancers, ask your doctor. Sometimes the best information about vaccines and treatment for which you're eligible can be found right in your community.
About the author: Dr. Huot is the founder and CEO of Beachside Dental Consultants, Inc. He has lectured at many meetings across the country, and his past articles have been featured in Dental Products Report, Dental Economics, Dental Practice Report, ADA News, and state dental journals. Dr. Huot retired in 2012 as a colonel in the USAF Reserve Dental Corps after 30 years of service, and having served as Commander of the 920th Aeromedical Staging Squadron at Patrick AFB, Florida. A past president of the Maine Dental Association in 1994, and the 2006 president of the Atlantic Coast District Dental Association in Florida, Dr Huot currently serves as a member of the Florida Dental Association Board of Trustees, and a board member of the American Dental Association Council on Government Affairs. Dr. Huot is a Fellow of the American College of Dentists, the International College of Dentists, the Academy of General Dentistry, and the Pierre Fauchard AWHEcademy.