In a study of sexually active young male, heterosexual college students, almost two thirds developed genital human papillomavirus (HPV) infection over two years of follow-up, according to Seattle-based researchers.
Certain strains of HPV, which can be transmitted from male to female partners, are responsible for most cases of cervical cancer.
In The Journal of Infectious Diseases, Dr Laura A. Koutsky and colleagues at the University of Washington note that, although much is known about HPV infection in women, this is not the case in men.
To investigate further, the researchers collected samples of genital cells at four-month intervals from 240 heterosexually active male university students between 18 and 20 years old.
Higher rates in males
Acquisition rates did not differ by site of initial detection. Overall, 33 different HPV types were recorded, but the most commonly detected types were HPV-16 and HPV-84. HPV-16 is a subtype known to be associated with cervical cancer - previous studies have found that about 50 percent of cervical cancers are caused by this virus.
After 24 months, the incidence of new genital HPV infections was 62.4 percent. This is considerably greater than the 38- to 43 percent rate seen in comparable studies of young women, the investigators note.
Among the factors associated with increased risk of HPV infection were having a new sex partner within four months of evaluation and having a history of cigarette smoking.
"The high rates of HPV infection in men," the investigators conclude, "should be considered when strategies for the prevention of HPV infection in female adolescents and young women are being developed."
Commenting on the findings, Dr Jane J. Kim, author of an accompanying editorial, told Reuters Health that the study "begins to fill a gap in the knowledge of HPV infections in men".
"Among other things," added Kim of the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, "the data from this study may help inform mathematical models that are currently being used to translate the short-term vaccine benefits of preventing HPV infections to longer-term outcomes of reducing more serious conditions, such as cervical cancer and anal cancer."
Source: The Journal of Infectious Diseases, October 15, 2007. – (Reuters Health)
STIs and safer sex