Although human papillomavirus (HPV) in men is often misunderstood, it is a medical condition that is increasingly more common. Of the more than 100 types of HPV, roughly 40 can spread to the mouth and throat as oral HPV. Its treatment and risk factors have only recently caused more awareness, particularly among men over the age of 55.
HPV in Men
According to the CDC, roughly 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. The virus is known to cause cervical and other cancers, including cancer in the back of the throat and the base of the tongue and tonsils. HPV is easily spread from person to person via intimate and sexual contact. Most patients who have an HPV infection are not aware of it and, by extension, spread the virus quickly.
Because most Oral 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 recognizable result of HPV in men 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.
HPV is thought to cause 70% of oropharyngeal cancers in the United States. The development of oropharyngeal cancer due to HPV is about three times less prominent in females than in men of the same age. The cause ultimately comes from trends within those of a particular age group. The occurrence of oropharyngeal cancer from HPV has increased among middle-aged men with sexual behavior as a prominent risk factor.
There are three ways to reduce your risk of getting HPV:
- Barriers, such as condoms and rubber dams, can help prevent the virus's contraction through sexual contact. The daily use of an oral rinse specially designed for mouth sores has also proven to be effective in preventing oral lesions, which can come as an onset symptom of HPV.
- Vaccinations for HPV have been proven effective for girls and boys as early as the teenage years to prevent the occurrence of the virus and related oral cancers, states the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Routine oral cancer screenings by your dentist, at least annually, can help to identify the onset of any HPV related symptoms. This includes a thorough exam of the base of the tongue and throat.
The good news is that 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 on gums and in the mouth, 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 you may be eligible for can be found right in your community.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.