Men, It’s Your Responsibility Too : It’s time we talk openly about HPV

 HPV, or the Human Papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted virus. In fact, it is so common that majority of sexually active men and women will have been infected with HPV at some point in their lives.1

For men, this particular infection is often overlooked as conversations about HPV normally center around female reproductive health largely because of its connection to cervical cancer.2 Nearly all cases of cervical cancer can be attributed to HPV. Cervical cancer ranks are the second most prevalent cancer among Filipino women.3

While the threat to female reproductive health is high, the reality is that HPV poses a potential risk to males as well.2

Silent but potentially dangerous

According to the American Cancer Society, there are more than 150 types of HPV.4 In most cases, the infection clears up on its own without a trace. However, getting HPV once does not make a person immune from other types. Aside from this, chronic, long-lasting infections may lay dormant for years without detection and can lead to the formation of genital warts and even HPV-related diseases and cancers.4

Most of the 150 HPV types are classified as low-risk, or those that can cause genital and anal warts. However, HPV can be potentially life-threatening particularly the types that are classified as high-risk which may cause not only cervical cancer, but also penile, anal, mouth, and throat cancers.4

“HPV is often associated to cervical cancer. However, the threat of HPV is not only limited to women. Certain cancers caused by HPV are also true for men.” said Dr. Mary Ann Galang-Escalona, Country Medical Lead of MSD in the Philippines.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 90 percent of anal and cervical cancers, 70 percent of vaginal and vulvar cancers, and 60 percent of penile cancers are caused by HPV. The CDC also noted that recent studies have shown that about 70 percent of oropharyngeal or mouth and throat cancers may be linked to HPV*.5

Guarding against HPV

“HPV prevention is just as much the responsibility of men as it is of women. A crucial step to addressing the very threat of HPV to public health is removing the stigma and misconceptions associated with it,” said Dr. Galang-Escalona.

She added that oftentimes, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are associated with promiscuity. However, any person who is sexually active can get infected with HPV.

“Education and open conversation about sexual health are important and can help in guarding against HPV. By removing the stigma attached to the STI, the burden of responsibility in addressing HPV shifts from the individual to a shared commitment in the family.”

Prevention methods against HPV include: abstinence from sexual activity; continuing to be faithful in a monogamous relationship; practicing safe sex including using condoms or dental dams; and getting vaccinated for HPV.6

Practicing these prevention methods may not only help protect ourselves against HPV but also our loved ones.

*Many cancers of the oropharynx may be caused by a combination of tobacco, alcohol and HPV.

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