Despite 50 percent of American men contracted a genital human papillomavirus (HPV) infection at some point in their lives, only a small percentage got vaccinated, a new study reveals. According to the latest findings, approximately 45 percent of 60-year-old or younger U.S. adults suffer from a genital HPV infection. This translates to roughly 35 million men nationwide infected with the virus.
Moreover, nearly 25 percent of the infected individuals are infected with high-risk types of HPV, which have been linked to various cancers, as opposed to low-risk types. The study found that in spite of the risks associated with the condition, only 11 percent of the patients ever seek medical help. Details of the survey have been published in the journal JAMA Oncology on Thursday, January 19th.
Interestingly enough, the researchers discovered older individuals were more susceptible to the infection rather than young adults. A high rate of HPV infection could be observed in the study’s oldest age group, more precisely, in subjects aged 58 or above. At the same time, researchers discovered that the HPV infection rate is substantially lower in older women.
“The consistent, high infection rate among all age groups in men was very striking because this was not expected”, said Dr. Jasmine Han, lead author of the study and head of gynecologic oncology at Fort Bragg’s Womack Army Medical Center in North Carolina.
The researchers conducted the study in order to discover how many people were exposed to the virus and subsequently raise awareness on the current low HPV vaccination rate in contrast with the high HPV prevalence rate, according to Dr. Jasmine Han.
According to the scientists, there are currently 150 HPV-related viruses that infect different parts of the body. Genital HPV infections could easily be transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse. While most infections go away on their own, the U.S. centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that others can linger inside the body and ultimately lead to life-threatening health complications such as cancer, or not as dangerous but still extremely unpleasant, warts.
One explanation as to why elderly men are more susceptible to genital HPV infections would be that their immune system is weaker than those of younger individuals. Also, the researchers have discovered that men’s immune systems do not respond as strongly to fight off the virus as women’s systems do. However, the scientists cannot tell for sure why older men had higher rates of HPV infection since the survey was conducted at a single point in time.
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