There's a nasty STD out there that may be off your radar. As if we don't have enough things to check off our lists before having sex, right?
You've heard of HPV. It isn't a new STD. It's actually been around for some time, but scientists didn't know much about it until recently and they're still learning more.
Most of what is known is that women have high risks of cervical cancer if the virus goes unchecked in their bodies.
This is where all the TV ads you may have seen come from. It's a preventative measure to get girls vaccinated before any problems arise.
Men share a similar risk although it's not heavily publicized. Although incidents have been less, boys and men are at high risk of certain cancers when they carry the human papillomavirus. The nasty list of C's range from anal cancer to penis, throat, head and neck cancers. Not much has been said about men and HPV partly because of the data available and partly due to the idea of how men get HPV.
As cancer expert Lisa Fayed points out: "No penetration is needed to contract the virus. It is transmitted through sexual skin-to-skin contact."
Yes, Lisa used the "s" word, which for most of the world automatically boils up images of a man and woman in contact. But when you consider how some men get HPV, especially resulting in anal cancer, it implies anal contact or sex. Campaigns to vaccinate girls have resulted in political hailstorms. So, the thought of vaccinating boys prior to contact is even less of an attractive idea.
Still, shying away from the sexual behaviors of guys will have to change as statistics continue to pour in about men and cancer risk associated with HPV. A 2009 Gay.com report showed an annual rate of approximately 35 cases of anal cancer per 100,000. The number multiplies by two for people living with HIV. Anal cancer is a growing issue among gay men and MSM's. HPV can lead directly to the cancer.
And now, what Menshealth.com calls "first-of-its-kind" research, scientists at Ohio State University found a link between what they call oral HPV and throat, neck and head cancers.
The numbers are shockingly high. Ten percent of men studied out of a group of 5,579 people between the ages of 14 and 69 tested positive for oral HPV. According to the study's author Maura Gillison, M.D., Ph. D., the type of oral HPV associated most with head and neck cancer is five times more common among men. This particularly nasty type, however, is only present in 1 percent of guys.
Numbers aside, how genital and oral HPV are contracted is self-explanatory. Where there is contact, there is potential transmission. There are ways to lessen the odds by using a condom for anal and a dental dam for rimming.
Left unmanaged, oral HPV carriers could be in for trouble down the line. Current research isn't positive if sexual contact is the only way to get oral HPV. Until more is known it's best to use a layer of protection.
Sex should be enjoyable, uplifting and fun. I know having these discussions makes sex, especially with other men, seem like a scary movie. But it doesn't have to be. By making safer sex enjoyable and part of the routine, sort of speak, you put more of the power in your own hands and not with an unknown. In future articles I'll show you how to practice safer sex and make it fun, so that you're not worrying about things like oral HPV when you should be letting go and enjoying the experience.
This document has been reviewed by our Medical Review Board and is considered medically accurate.