Oral HPV More Prevalent Among Men Than Women

Hat tip to Tobias. 

The Internal Medicine News covers a study showing that oral HPV is three times more prevalent among men than women. Oral HPV has been linked to something called “oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma,” which is apparently cancer of the middle part of the throat (the tonsils, soft palate, and the base of the tongue, and certainly does not sound like something you want to have in your mouth.

All too often, HPV infection is presented as only being a concern because of cervical cancer, and that people who do not have cervixes do not need to worry about it. Gardasil and other HPV vaccines, for instance, are usually only given to female-assigned-at-birth people. This is silly on the face of it, because most people with cervixes are straight cis women who are going to be fucking cis men, so we might as well go about vaccinating the male-assigned people as well; after all, if the virus was never transmitted to you, then you can hardly transmit it to other people. That’s like trying to prevent smallpox by only vaccinating half the population!

However, the health risks of HPV for men go far beyond the risk of transmitting it to a partner. It has been estimated that by 2020 more oropharyngeal cancers than cervical cancers will be caused by HPV– and most people who get oropharyngeal cancer from HPV will be men. Not to mention penile and anal cancers, which although rarer than other forms of cancer caused by HPV, still affect men and male-assigned people to a huge degree. The strains of HPV that are most likely to cause these cancers, HPV 16 and 18, are exactly those vaccinated for by Gardasil. They don’t even need to develop a new vaccine!  The fact that more men aren’t getting vaccinated is an outrage.

Even if you weren’t born with a cervix, talk to your doctor about the possibility of getting the HPV vaccine.

About ozyfrantz

Ozy Frantz is a student at a well-respected Hippie College in the United States. Zie bases most of zir life decisions on Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, and identifies more closely with Pinkie Pie than is probably necessary. Ozy can be contacted at ozyfrantz@gmail.com or on Twitter as @ozyfrantz. Writing is presently Ozy's primary means of support, so to tip the blogger, click here.


  1. Having had a pap that tested positive for HPV and all the subsequent testing, I had to get it from a guy so it does make sense that they would have more or at least as much of a transmission rate.

  2. Yes! I so totally agree that the HPV vaccine (*and* testing; it can’t be impossible to develop a clinical test for non-cervical infections) should be for everyone, without moral judgments or ridiculous financial barriers. It’s such a simple way to end so much needless human suffering, it boggles my mind that so many seem to shun the vaccine because it’s against a “dirty slut” disease, basically.

    For myself, I got diagnosed with an abnormal pap smear back in my early twenties, before a vaccine was available, and went through the fun of biopsies and surgery to remove the bits of my cervix that were gong south. Thank goodness I had health insurance and was keeping up on my annual exams, otherwise I probably wouldn’t be here typing this now. Hence, I have a tendency to proselytize a little bit on the topic . . . or at least go off on rants.

    I recovered fully, and more recent testing shows I’ve “cleared” the nasty HPV from my system and very likely I’m now naturally immune to *one* of the nasty strains, yay. However, much as I’d like to get vaccinated against the *other* nasties, I’m over the age of 26, when my insurance company has declared that it will no longer cover the vaccination (thanks, IIRC, to the fact that FDA tests have only approved the shot for women under 26, like there’s some magical metabolic turnover that would render it ineffective after that age). I just can’t foot the bill at the moment for $150 per shot in a series of multiple shots.

    The current Gentleman Friend is in the same boat, being male AND over 26 — but he’d be first in line to get vaccinated, too, if it were affordable. He’s said as much (sometimes at length . . . ) 🙂

    Oh, yeah, and about that “dirty slut” thing? I got diagnosed back when I’d had all of TWO sexual partners in my entire life. Didn’t take a whole lot of carousing around, just bad luck.

  3. Boys aged 11-12 yo can get the HPV vaccine (it’s covered by most health insurances and Medicaid/Health Dept.)….

    Unfortunately, some parents erroneously think that giving the shot to their girls will make them promiscuous!

  4. I know that men weren’t going to get birth control for free, but STD counseling? What the hell?

    P.S. Also slightly off topic, but when republicans were trying to stop the requirement that woman get free birth control, and a bunch of people flipped out claiming that it was anti-women I got so angry over it. If you think that not giving women free birth control is a “war on women”, does that mean since you aren’t supporting free birth control for men you are part of a “war on men”?
    P.P.S. This of course, doesn’t say anything about the other unsavory actions pulled by the republicans in the realm of birth control. In fact, it doesn’t even excuse republicans for opposing birth control free for women.

  5. Tip of the hat to both you and Tobias, Ozy, for spreading this news and the recommendation that boys and men be vaccinated for HPV. If you live in a state that disfavors the vaccine for girls (for, you know, the usual nutty reasons), keep in mind that vaccinating your son can have a 2 for the price of 1 benefit.

    As an aside, this, among other reasons, is why it continues to blow my mind that U.S. Health & Human Services Department is insisting on implementing Obamacare in a way that prevents men from receiving no-deductible, no co-pay STD counseling, birth control counseling, birth control devices / procedures, etc. and that Planned Parenthood isn’t troubled by that.

  6. Monkey, neither the U.S. nor Canada has approved a test for HPV in the mouth, throat, or penis. The only test that’s currently available is a cervical swab. Canada has approved the Gardasil vaccine for everyone, but availability/cost seems to vary by province.


    • Exactly so, Eli. Which underscores the importance of boys and men being vaccinated against HPV, given the absence of either a test or a cure in the case of men.

    • minuteye says:

      And fyi: anyone born with a cervix in 1991, ’92 or ’93 can get vaccinated for free in British Columbia right now (sucks that it’s such a small subset of the population, but if somebody qualifies, it’s great).

  7. Does anybody know about the treatment’s status in Canada? Is there a test a la a pap smear for your mouth? (I apologize if that reads as a little grose).

    I have not had a lot experience with oral, but (blush) I enjoy it.

  8. John Anderson says:

    So that brings up two questions. When will the government fund screening, prevention and treatment for women and what part of an infant boy’s body needs to be removed to provide a theoretical, remote possibility of some insignificant reduction of his risk? //sarcasm

  9. What does it cost? I might get it…

  10. Wow yeah thanks for posting this. I didn’t realize HPV could affect men, or even that the vaccine was available for men. Think I’m gonna look into getting that vaccine now.

  11. Not to mention how extra fucked over gay and bi cis men are.

  12. Thanks so much for putting this out there!

    There are numerous healthcare injustices in the US, but the way HPV vaccines are promoted is one of the few that truly makes my jaw drop. It’s so utterly *pointless*. Vaccine companies lose nothing by advertising to AMAB consumers but they still don’t do it. Perhaps there’s some damning epidemiological data that I’m not seeing that will prove that offering the vaccine to AMAB people will offer no benefit, but barring that, it’s a stupid, callous disregard for human life and health.

    My girlfriend is trans and she went through heaps of shit with her campus health center to get them to allow her to be vaccinated. She brought in FDA announcements and everything, and even then they only grudgingly okayed it. (Turns out she couldn’t get it anyway because her insurance company didn’t offer coverage in the area.) The health center still has not changed its promotional material to advertise the vaccine to the AMAB students.


  13. Yup, the CDC recommends it for males in fact. Of course this hasn’t prevented schools from only giving it to females. (Well requiring it from females, but I assume they give out required vaccines to kids who can’t afford it. Him, this could be a job for Title IX.)

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