By Robert Preidt
WEDNESDAY, Nov. 12, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Men are at increased risk for oral human papillomavirus (HPV) infection if their female sex partners have oral and/or genital HPV infections, a new study shows.
The findings suggest that HPV transmission occurs through both oral-oral and oral-genital routes, according to the authors of the study.
"HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world and is a risk factor for several cancers, including cervical, vaginal, vulvar, oropharyngeal [throat/tonsil], anal and penile cancers," lead researcher, Eduardo Franco, said in a news release from the American Association for Cancer Research. Franco is director of the division of cancer epidemiology and chairman of the department of oncology at McGill University in Montreal.
"Understanding how HPV is transmitted is important because it will help us identify who is most at risk for HPV infection and how we can help them protect themselves and their partners," he explained. "Our work provides additional evidence that HPV is sexually transmitted to the oral tract through oral-oral and oral-genital contact."
For the study, the researchers looked at 222 men and their female partners, and found that the overall rate of oral HPV infection among the men was just over 7 percent. Rates were higher among those who had a female sex partner with oral HPV infection (nearly 29 percent) and/or genital HPV infection (11.5 percent), had multiple sex partners (18 percent), or were smokers (12 percent).
Of the 222 men in the study, 130 had a sex partner with a genital HPV infection, the investigators found.
The rate of infection with HPV16 -- one of the types most associated with cancer risk -- was about 2 percent among all the men in the study and 6 percent among the 33 men whose sex partners had genital HPV16 infection.
The more often men performed oral sex on their partner, the more likely they were to be infected with the type of HPV present in the genitals of that partner, the study authors noted in the news release.
There were no HPV infections among the 52 men who never smoked, were in single-partner relationships and whose partner was free of oral or genital HPV, according to the report.
There are two HPV vaccines available in the United States -- Cervarix and Gardasil. Both vaccines are available for girls, but only Gardasil is available for boys, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC recommends all boys and girls aged 11 and 12 get the three-dose vaccine so that protection is in place before they become sexually active.
The study findings were published Nov. 12 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.
The Canadian Institutes for Health Research, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and Merck & Co. (maker of Gardasil) funded the study.