HealthDay News — Men are at increased risk for oral human papillomavirus (HPV) infection if their female sex partners have oral and/or genital HPV infections, results of a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention indicate.

“HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world and is a risk factor for several cancers, including cervical, vaginal, vulvar, oropharyngeal [throat/tonsil], anal, and penile cancers,” said Eduardo L. Franco, DrPH, in a news release from the American Association for Cancer Research.

To estimate the prevalence of oral HPV infection and assess risk factors among young heterosexual men, the investigators collected information from 222 male patients and their female partners.

The overall rate of oral HPV infection among men was 7.2%. Rates were higher among men who smoked (12.2%), had multiple sex partners (17.9%), and those who had a female sex partner with oral HPV infection (28.6%) and/or genital HPV infection (11.5%).

Of the 222 men in the study, 120 had a sex partner with a genital HPV infection. There were no HPV infections among the 52 study participants who never smoked, were in single-partner relationships, and whose partner was free of oral or genital HPV.

The rate of infection with HPV16 was 2.3% among all the men in the study and 6.1% among the 33 men whose sex partners had genital HPV16 infection.

The more often men performed oral sex on their partner, the more likely they were to be infected with the HPV present in the genitals of that partner, noted the researchers. For every unit increase in the frequency of oral sex on the female partner (never/rarely, sometimes, or most times/always), men had a more than twofold increase in prevalence.

“Understanding how HPV is transmitted is important because it will help us identify who is most at risk for HPV infection and how we can help them protect themselves and their partners,” added Franco.”Our work provides additional evidence that HPV is sexually transmitted to the oral tract through oral-oral and oral-genital contact.”


  1. Dahlstrom KR et al. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. 2014; doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-14-0386

Disclosure: The study was funded in part by Merck (maker of Gardasil).