HPV and Men — Fact Sheet

What is HPV?

HPV is a very common virus that can be spread from one person to another person through anal, vaginal, or oral sex, or through other close skin-to-skin touching during sexual activity. 79 million Americans, most in their late teens and early 20s, are infected with HPV. Nearly all sexually active people who do not get the HPV vaccine get infected with HPV at some point in their lives. It is important to understand that getting HPV is not the same thing as getting HIV or HSV (herpes).

How do men get HPV?

You can get HPV by having sex with someone who is infected with HPV. This disease is spread easily during anal or vaginal sex, and it can also be spread through oral sex or other close skin-to-skin touching during sex. HPV can be spread even when an infected person has no visible signs or symptoms.

Will HPV cause health problems for me?

Most HPV infections go away on their own and don’t cause any health problems. However, if an infection does not go away, it is possible to develop HPV symptoms months or years after getting infected. This makes it hard to know exactly when you became infected. Lasting HPV infection can cause genital warts or certain kinds of cancer. It is not known why some people develop health problems from HPV and others do not.

What are the symptoms of HPV?

Most men who get HPV never develop symptoms and the infection usually goes away completely by itself. However, if HPV does not go away, it can cause genital warts or certain kinds of cancer.

See your healthcare provider if you have questions about anything new or unusual such as warts, or unusual growths, lumps, or sores on your penis, scrotum, anus, mouth, or throat.

Can HPV cause cancer?

Yes. HPV itself isn’t cancer but it can cause changes in the body that lead to cancer. HPV infections usually go away by themselves but , when they don’t, they can cause certain kinds of cancer to develop. These include cervical cancer in women, penile cancer in men, and anal cancer in both women and men. HPV can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (called oropharyngeal cancer). All of these cancers are caused by HPV infections that did not go away. Cancer develops very slowly and may not be diagnosed until years, or even decades, after a person first gets infected with HPV. Currently, there is no way to know who will have only a temporary HPV infection, and who will develop cancer after getting HPV.

Can I get tested for HPV?

No, there is currently no approved test for HPV in men. Routine testing (also called ‘screening’) to check for HPV or HPV-related disease before there are signs or symptom, is not recommended by the CDC for anal, penile, or throat cancers in men in the United States. However, some healthcare providers do offer anal Pap tests to men who may be at increased risk for anal cancer, including men with HIV or men who receive anal sex. If you have symptoms and are concerned about cancer, please see a healthcare provider.

What does having HPV mean for me or my sex partner’s health?

See a healthcare provider if you have questions about anything new or unusual (such as warts, growths, lumps, or sores) on your own or your partner’s penis, scrotum, anus, mouth or throat. Even if you are healthy, you and your sex partner(s) may also want to get checked by a healthcare provider for other STIs.

If you or your partner have genital warts, you should avoid having sex until the warts are gone or removed. However, it is not known how long a person is able to spread HPV after warts are gone.

What does HPV mean for my relationship?

HPV infections are usually temporary. A person may have had HPV for many years before it causes health problems. If you or your partner are diagnosed with an HPV-related disease, there is no way to know how long you have had HPV, whether your partner gave you HPV, or whether you gave HPV to your partner. HPV is not necessarily a sign that one of you is having sex outside of your relationship. It is important that sex partners discuss their sexual health and risk for all STIs, with each other.

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