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The human papillomavirus infects about half of men in the United States, Brazil and Mexico, according to a new study.
And each year, 6 percent of men become newly infected with HPV 16, the strain that causes cervical cancer in women and other cancers in men, the study said.
The risk of HPV infection increases with the more sexual partners a person has. For example, men who had 50 or more female partners were 2.4 times more likely to be infected with a cancer-causing strain of HPV than men who had one or no partners, the study said.
And the risk of infection with a cancer-causing HPV strain was 2.6 times higher in men who'd had three or more male partners than men who had no male partners, according to the study.
The average HPV infection lasts 7.5 months, though the average infection by the cancer-causing HPV 16 lasts 12 months, the study said.
To estimate the prevalence of the virus, Florida researchers checked for HPV infection in 1,159 men, ages 18 to 70, every six months for two years. The men, from the United States, Brazil and Mexico, were all HIV-negative and had no history of cancer.
Most men with HPV never develop symptoms or further health problems, but can easily spread the virus to their partners. The virus can cause cervical, vaginal, penile, oral, head and neck and anal cancers , according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
More than 40 types of HPV are transmissible through sexual contact, but not all cause cancer, according to the CDC. Warts are the most common sign of HPV, with 205 cases of warts seen each year for every 100,000 people in the United States.
There is currently no widely used HPV test for men, but doctors are usually able to tell if a man has the virus because of genital warts, according to the CDC.
Boys and men ages 9 to 26 can be vaccinated against the HPV types that cause cancer and genital warts, the CDC said.
The new study was published online today (Feb. 28) in the journal Lancet.
Pass it on: About half of all men have the human papillomavirus (HPV).
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