HPV, including high-risk HPV, is significantly more prevalent in males than in females in the United States, although rates vary by age and race or ethnicity, according to recent findings.
According to the CDC, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. Mainly spread during vaginal or anal sex, HPV is preventable through vaccination. The infection usually resolves on its own but can cause health problems in some patients, including genital warts and cancer.
Among dozens of types of HPV, 14 are considered high risk for causing cancer, including cervical cancer. According to the CDC, it may take years or even decades for cancer to develop in an infected patient.
In April, the agency reported that roughly 25% of men and 20% of women in the U.S. have a high-risk type of HPV (HR-HPV). The report was based on nationally representative data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a cross-sectional survey administered by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.
In a new CDC-funded study, researchers used data from the 2013-2014 NHANES to evaluate the prevalence of HPV among sexually experienced males and females aged 14 to 59 years in the U.S.
The results were published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.
Overall, 45.8% of males and 40.1% of females had some type of HPV for a prevalence ratio (PR) of 1.14 (95% CI, 1.03-1.27). Prevalence of HR-HPV was 25.7% in males and 20.7% in females (PR, 1.24; 95% CI, 1.07-1.43).
According to the researchers, the prevalence of any HPV and HR-HPV was significantly lower among males than among females at ages 14 to 19 years but higher at ages 40 to 49 years and 50 to 59 years. They noted other sex differences in models stratified by race or ethnicity, poverty, sexual behaviors and smoking.
“After adjusting for lifetime sex partners, most sex differences were attenuated, but males had lower prevalences at ages 14 to 19 [years] and 20 to 24 [years] and higher HR-HPV prevalence among non-Hispanic blacks,” the researchers wrote.
In addition to the number of lifetime sexual partners — which was higher for males than females among those reporting the most partners — the researchers said other biological and behavioral differences could explain the differences in patterns of HPV prevalence among males and females. Among them are a potentially weaker immune response to genital HPV infection in males than in females and a higher probability of female-to-male transmission. – by Gerard Gallagher
The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.