Why You Could Have HPV

Virus doesn't always show symptoms — listen up, parents

This might make you cringe, but the following statistic is an important one.

Nearly half of all men in the U.S. are infected with the human papillomavirus, and one in four has strains linked with several cancers.

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The information is critical for parents who are considering the HPV vaccine for their children.

We’ve heard more about infection rates in recent years, given the push to eradicate the virus. HPV often causes no symptoms and disappears without treatment; most adults will get a HPV infection at some point in their lives.

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But high-risk HPV can cause cancer in the mouth and upper throat, cervical cancer in women, and other cancers. It can also expose someone else to the virus, as sexual partners can catch HPV even when the infections are silent.

Related: HPV Vaccination: More Effective Than Thought

Vaccines help prevent infection. The problem is, the compliance rate — specifically in pre-teens and young adults — is still very low, the authors of a new study found. The review of a 2013-14 national health survey published this week in JAMA Oncology found that boys are just at much risk for infection as girls, and both should be vaccinated

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HPV, the leading cause of cervical cancer, can be detected in women during routine Pap tests. Here is something to note, however: HPV-related mouth and throat cancers are becoming more common, especially among men who are not routinely screened for the virus.

A head and neck cancer specialist at the University of Chicago, Dr. Tanguy Seiwert, told the Associated Press the results show that “doctors and parents need to step up efforts to vaccinate boys and young men and get over concerns that the HPV vaccine will lead to risky sexual behavior.”

Related: One Less Shot for Teens

“Our society keeps talking about finding ‘the cure for cancer,'” he added. “Frankly, this is as close as it gets — it prevents cancer.”

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