Men can get human papillomavirus (HPV) infections from more than 100 different HPV types. Each virus type can cause abnormal growths on the body–genital warts, lesions near the genitals or anus, common warts, plantar warts or lesions in the mouth or upper respiratory system.
Typically transmitted through sexual contact, HPV infections are common. Although some HPV types are cancer-causing, most infections are not cancerous. The virus types are named with a number, in the order of discovery. Here are seven of the most common human papillomavirus types.
HPV 6. HPV 6 is one of the two most common types of low-risk human papillomavirus infections. Most HPV 6 infections can cause genital warts, although men can also develop mouth lesions or benign tumors in the throat.
HPV 11. HPV 11 is the other most common low-risk HPV type. This strain can cause genital warts, mouth lesions or non-cancerous throat tumors. Along with HPV 6, this virus type is linked to about 90 percent of genital wart problems.
HPV 16. HPV 16 is one of the most common high-risk types of human papillomavirus. HPV 16 accounts for about 50 percent of cervical cancers in women.
HPV 18. HPV 18 is another high-risk virus type. Like HPV 16, it has been linked to cervical changes in women that can ultimately lead to cervical cancer.
HPV 42. HPV 42 is another common HPV type in the low-risk category. It usually produces symptoms like genital warts that are unlikely to develop into cancer. In men, genital warts can appear on the penis, scrotum and skin around the anus.
HPV 72. Another low-risk strain of human papillomavirus is HPV 72. Again, this virus type primarily causes genital warts on the penis, scrotum and perianal skin.
HPV 81. HPV 81 is another common human papillomavirus type that is low-risk for cancer. Like most of the types described above, HPV 81 usually produces genital warts that appear on the penis, scrotum or near the anus.
Men can lower their chance of getting these types of HPVs. One particular vaccine can protect men from most genital warts. The vaccine is available for males from nine to 26 years of age. Because most HPV infections are spread through sexual contact, men should also consider the following four ways to lower their HPV risk.
Use condoms. Sexually active men can use condoms to lower their risk of HPV infections and related diseases. For example, condoms can protect against the human papillomavirus and genital warts.
Limit sexual partners. Men who limit their number of sex partners can lower their HPV risk. Choosing a partner who has few or no prior sex partners is a good option for sexually active men. However, it can be impossible to determine if a person with a sexual past is currently infected.
Choose monogamy. Men who are faithful to their wives or girlfriends have a lower risk for getting HPV and related diseases. However, even men with only one lifetime partner are not immune to HPV infections.
Abstain from sex. The only way to prevent sexually-transmitted HPV infections 100 percent is sexual abstinence. This may or may not be an option for most men, especially married men.
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