HPV Virus (Genital Warts ) in Men Introduction
Much of the information about HPV virus (human papillomavirus) centers on women, since having the virus increases their risk of getting cervical cancer. But HPV virus in men can cause health problems, too. So it’s important for men to understand how to reduce the risks of HPV infection.
More than half of men who are sexually active in the United States will have HPV at some time in their life. Often, a man will clear the virus on his own, with no health problems.
Risks of HPV Virus in Men
Some of the 30 or so types of HPV associated with genital cancers can lead to cancer of the anus or penis in men. Both of these cancer types are rare. In those with a healthy immune system, they are even rarer. About 1,530 men in the U.S. were diagnosed with cancer of the penis in 2006, according to American Cancer Society estimates. About 1,910 men got a diagnosis of anal cancer.
The risk of anal cancer is about 17 times higher in sexually active gay and bisexual men than in men who have sex only with women. Men who have HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) are also at higher risk of getting this cancer.
Male HPV: The Symptoms
The types of high-risk HPV that can cause cancer rarely present any symptoms in men or in women. Genital warts are the first symptom you may see with low-risk HPV strains that cause warts but not cancer.
Tests for HPV Virus in Men
To diagnose genital warts in men, the doctor will visually check a man’s genital area to see if warts are present. Some doctors will apply a vinegar solution to help identify warts that aren’t raised and visible. But the test is not foolproof. Sometimes normal skin is mistakenly identified as a wart.
There is no routine test for men to check for high-risk HPV strains that can cause cancer. However, some doctors are urging anal Pap tests for gay and bisexual men, who are at higher risk of anal cancer caused by HPV. In an anal Pap test, the doctor collects cells from the anus, and then has them checked for abnormalities in a lab.
Treatments for HPV
There is no treatment for asymptomatic HPV infection. Instead, doctors treat the health problems that are caused by the HPV virus.
When genital warts appear, a variety of treatments can be used. The patient can apply prescription creams at home. Or a doctor can surgically remove or freeze off the warts.
Early treatment of warts is discouraged by some doctors because genital warts can go away on their own. It can also take time for all warts to appear. So a person who treats warts as soon as they appear may need another treatment later on.