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HPV In Men

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The number of people with HPV is rising every year, but for many guys out there, the information availaible can be confusing.

Does HPV affect men differently than women? Why are grade school boys now being recommended the HPV vaccine? Is there anything that can be done to help?

Well, put simply, men can have HPV too, but importantly there are also things that can be done to help the situation.

Read on for more information about understanding HPV in men, and how you can tackle this common infection.

What’s Different With Men?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most prevalent sexually transmitted infection worldwide. and

Because of the higher risk of cervical cancer and other symptoms, the spotlight on prevention and treatment of HPV transmission has been on women thus far. This is why there is plenty of information and best practises available for women, but less on the HPV virus for men.

With more than 40 types of HPV, men are susceptible to all of the HPV strains that women are. That’s right, men are just as able to get HPV as women!

HPV can cause cancer in men, but most HPV-positive men will never develop symptoms of HPV, especially with a strong immune system.

Healthy Man
A Strong Immune System Helps Fight off HPV

Most men with HPV, and especially those with a strong immune system, may never show symptoms of HPV, or develop health problems from it.

However, certain types of HPV can cause genital warts, while other high risk strains can develop into penile, anal, or oropharynx cancer (back of the throat, tongue and tonsils).


Most people know that HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity involving the genital area.

Although it is most commonly transmitted through vaginal and anal sex, did you also know that it can also be spread through anal and oral sex too?

Even being sexually active with only one person can bring on an HPV infection. Having more sexual partners will put you at higher risk for contracting an HPV infection.

Anyone Can Get It

Famously, Michael Douglas stated in an interview in 2013 that he was thought to have contracted oral cancer from HPV.

He is a good example of how lifestyle factors can easily affect your prognosis with HPV. He was an avid smoker and drinker, both of which can have severe detriments on your immune system and are also specific risk factors of cancer.

Susceptible Groups

Some men are more likely to develop symptoms or complications.

Gay and bisexual men are 17 times more likely to develop anal cancer than men who only have sex with women.

Men who have weakened immune systems, including those with HIV, autoimmune conditions, or medications, are also more likely to develop cancer or severe genital warts that are hard to treat.

HPV Symptoms in Men

Most HPV-positive men will never develop symptoms of HPV. However, the small subset of the population who may develop symptoms should look for:

  • Genital warts: single or multiple warty growths in the genital area, including thighs, penis, testicles, and anus. These may appear days, weeks, or months after sexual contact with an HPV-positive sexual partner.
  • Anal cancer: can present with no symptoms, or you may see anal pain, itching, discharge, or bleeding, swollen lymph nodes, or changes in stool.
  • Penile cancer: early changes will include thickening of skin, changes in colour, or tissue buildup. Later symptoms may show growths that can be painless, or painful, possibly with blood.
  • Throat cancer: sore throat or ear pain that is not cleared with conventional medicine, coughing, pain with swallowing, unintentional weight loss, voice changes, or lumps.

Protecting Your Sexual Partner

There are low risk and high risk types of HPV.

Most HPV infections are self-limiting and usually resolve within a period of 1 to 2 years.

Like any other virus, most strong immune systems will be able to clear HPV pretty easily without even realizing you had it.

Healthy Couple
It is important to remain HPV-free so as to prevent transmission to your sexual partners

There does exist, however, a number of high-risk HPV strains  that can be responsible for some health concerns in women, such as: genital warts, cervical dysplasia, precancerous lesions, or cervical cancer.

Cervical dysplasia and cervical cancers are a high-risk complication of HPV for women.

So even if you don’t show symptoms, you should be sure to take necessary precautions for a female sexual partner.

These high-risk strains are much less likely to cause cancer in men than women, but they are responsible for causing anal and penile cancers.

The best thing you can do right now is to keep your immune system strong and healthy, while cutting out key lifestyle risks that will increase your risk of developing cancer.


I won’t be at risk because my partner didn’t have any symptoms…right?

The short answer is: you could still be at risk.

Unfortunately, HPV can be passed on even when someone with an HPV infection does not have any symptoms.

With a healthy immune system, someone may suppress symptoms of the HPV infection, but the virus can still hop over to another host. Having said this, if their partner has an equally healthy immune system, chances are, the HPV won’t cause any serious complications.

We use physical protection (i.e. condoms) every time so I’m safe.

While condoms provide excellent protection against sexually transmitted infections, they only provide some protection against HPV.

Condoms do not cover the entire genital area, so you can still get the HPV virus though skin to skin contact in the genital area even if you’re wearing a condom. It can also be spread through contact with other areas that aren’t covered.

In other words, you can get HPV through oral-genital or hand-genital contact – not just sexual intercourse! Having oral sex without physical protection can lead to throat cancer!

Healthy Man

If I got it once, I’m safe now…right?

You can be infected with HPV more than once, even if you’ve already been exposed to HPV before. Your body may not have developed long-term protection against the virus, or you may come into contact with a completely different strain of the virus, remembering that there are over 100 different types of HPV.

HPV Detection and Prevention

HPV Detection

HPV detection is key to preventing further high risk complications of HPV in women. Women get routine pap smears and can get HPV tests to screen for cervical changes related to HPV.

The CDC does not recommend any testing to screen men for HPV.

There is no current test recommended for men with HPV, and therefore regular health check-ups are important.

The best option is to continue to attend routine appointments with your medical doctor and make sure they are aware of any changes to your health, including your sexual health.

Some health care providers will screen men at risk for anal cancer by performing an anal pap test.

HPV Prevention

There are multiple HPV vaccinations available that are FDA approved to prevent diseases caused by HPV. It is recommended to get the vaccine before the age of 25.

There are now school-based HPV vaccination programs offered to boys and girls around grades 7 and 8, prior to the onset of sexual activity to optimize prevention strategies.

It is also most optimal at this stage as vaccines are more effective with a young teen immune system. There are 2 or 3 vaccinations over a 6 to 12-month period to receive full immunization.

Aside from abstaining from sex, practising safe sex measures is a way to prevent the transmission of HPV.

In terms of prevention during sexual activity, condoms are the best physical method of prevention, but they do not prevent HPV completely because there are still some exposed genital areas that may come into contact.

Being sexually monogamous with a monogamous partner is also a good way to increase prevention.

You can also be proactive and be cautious of any abnormalities on your penis, scrotum, or around the anus. See your doctor if you find warts, blisters, sores, ulcers, white patches, or other abnormal lesions for a checkup.

Treatment for HPV Complications

There is no complete treatment for HPV in men or women.

The complications associated with the human papillomavirus, however, may be managed and eradicated.

Genital warts can be treated with creams, medication, or removed completely through surgery or by freezing them off. The latter will require a visit to your doctor, but other options can include home treatments.

Cancers, such as penile, anal, or oropharyngeal cancer, can be managed and potentially treated with surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and other adherence to recommended treatments by your doctor.

So, How Do I Not Get It!?

Even being sexually active with only one person can bring on an HPV infection. Having more sexual partners will put you at higher risk for contracting an HPV infection.

Although there is no cure for HPV, there are ways to strengthen your immune system to prevent outbreaks and the progression of the virus.

The team at Papillex suggests a few ways for men to help strengthen their immune system when concerned with HPV:

  • Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, particularly broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, sweet potatoes and carrots, all of which help to build a healthy immune system.
  • There are natural supplements for HPV that have been used successfully by Naturopathic Doctors for decades. Be sure to either consume in therapeutic doses in your diet, or supplement with, folic acid, selenium, green tea extract, and broccoli sprouts – all of which are key ingredients in Papillex.
  • Get adequate sleep, anywhere from 7-8 hours a night and exercise regularly.
  • Try to incorporate wellness activities to help reduce stress; some methods include breath work, meditation and yoga.


Government of Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada. “Institutional links.” Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and Men: Questions and Answers – Sexual Health & STI – Public Health Agency of Canada. N.p., 07 June 2012. Accessed: 22 July 2017.


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