Study: HPV in­fects nearly half of U.S. pop­u­la­tion

One-in-five peo­ple have high-risk form of virus

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY LAURA KELLY

Nearly half of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion has hu­man pa­pil­lo­mavirus, com­monly known as HPV — mak­ing it the most com­monly sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted in­fec­tion, ac­cord­ing to a new study by the Na­tional Cen­ter for Health Statis­tics.

Many peo­ple don’t know they have HPV un­less they are tested, and the in­fec­tion can clear up on its own. But high-risk types of HPV can lead to can­cer in men and women — as many as 31,000 cases ev­ery year, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

“It’s star­tling,” said Dr. Geral­dine McQuillan, lead au­thor of the study. “One-in-five of us have high-risk HPV and we know that high-risk HPV can go on to cause can­cer,” she said. Dr. McQuillan is a se­nior in­fec­tious dis­ease epi­demi­ol­o­gist for the Na­tional Cen­ter for Health Statis­tics.

“To me, that is a re­ally star­tling find­ing and re­ally drills down the mes­sage that we need to … take the one pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sure that we have, which is to vac­ci­nate our ado­les­cents be­fore they be­come sex­u­ally ac­tive,” said Dr. McQuillan. “This vac­cine has been un­der­uti­lized.”

A vac­cine against cer­tain types of high-risk HPV has been around for girls since 2006. Be­gin­ning in 2011, the CDC started to rec­om­mend boys be­tween the ages of 11 and 12 also get the vac­cine. Ado­les­cents re­ceive two shots, six months apart.

A study pub­lished in 2016 showed a 64 per­cent drop in HPV in­fec­tions in girls af­ter the vac­cine was in­tro­duced.

Women who weren’t vac­ci­nated as ado­les­cents and aren’t in­fected are en­cour­aged to get the vac­cine up un­til the age of 26. For men, it’s un­til the age of 21. How­ever, three shots are re­quired, each six months apart.

There are 40 dif­fer­ent types of HPV, which can be spread through vagi­nal, anal or oral sex. About 42 per­cent of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion has any type of gen­i­tal HPV and 7.3 per­cent have any type of oral HPV.

Typ­i­cally, HPV is an asymp­to­matic in­fec­tion, oc­ca­sion­ally caus­ing gen­i­tal warts. But high-risk oral HPV can lead to head and neck cancers. High-risk gen­i­tal HPV can lead to anal can­cer, cer­vi­cal can­cer in women and pe­nile can­cer in men.

When peo­ple are found to have high-risk HPV, the best thing they can do is have their physi­cians mon­i­tor them to make sure the in­fec­tions do not de­velop into can­cer, Dr. McQuillan said.

The most re­cent in­for­ma­tion on HPV is based on data from the Na­tional Health and Nu­tri­tion Ex­am­i­na­tion Sur­vey (NHANES), which ad­min­is­ters more than 300 lab­o­ra­tory tests along with many other in­ter­view and ex­am­i­na­tion data on 10,000 par­tic­i­pants of all ages. Data are re­leased ev­ery two years.

What makes the sur­vey unique is that it is test­ing the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion.

“The NHANES is unique in the sense is that it’s a house­hold-based sur­vey,” Dr. McQuillan said. “What’s sig­nif­i­cant about this is it’s not peo­ple in STD clin­ics, not the home­less pop­u­la­tion — this is us. This is our next door neigh­bor, this is the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion, not the sick pop­u­la­tion … this is you and me.”

While re­searchers tested men and women for any type of oral HPV from 2011 to 2014, it wasn’t un­til 2013 that they started test­ing men for any type of gen­i­tal HPV.

“For the first time we’ve added in men to the pop­u­la­tion. For 2013 and 2014 we asked men to do pe­nile swabs, much to our amaze­ment they said yes, and that’s why there is data for the to­tal pop­u­la­tion. All our pre­vi­ous re­ports only looked at women,” Dr. McQuillan said.

In in­stances of oral and gen­i­tal HPV, men had a higher rate of in­fec­tion across age and race com­pared to women.

From 2013 to 2014, preva­lence of any type of gen­i­tal HPV in adults aged 18 to 59 was 45.2 per­cent in men and 39.9 per­cent in women. For high-risk gen­i­tal HPV, it was 25.1 per­cent in men and 20.4 per­cent in women.

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