Men may be at greater risk than women of developing HPV-related cancer

A new study from the National Cancer Institute suggests that the number of HPV-positive oral cancers among men could rise significantly in the next decade, possibly surpassing cervical cancers among women.The human papillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 20 million Americans are currently infected and about 6 million more get infected each year.Using population-based cancer registry data, the researchers found that between 1988 and 2004, oropharynx cancers related to HPV increased by 225 percent, with men accounting for the majority of cases. Relying on U.S. Census projections and age-period-cohort models, they projected a 27 percent rise in cases by 2020.About 40 types of HPV are spread during genital, oral or anal sex with an infected partner--some are low-risk (wart-causing) while others are high-risk (cancer-causing). It is believed that the body's own immune system gets rid of most HPV within about two years of infection. But when HPV remains in the body for longer periods, it can develop into several cancers, including oropharynx and cervical, which is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women worldwide.Gardasil, the only approved vaccine for boys and girls, is effective against two types of cancer-causing HPV and two types of wart-causing HPV.