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Is HPV the Same For Women and Men?


The Human Papillomavirus has both similarities and differences for women vs. men. HPV is a Sexually Transmitted Disease and all sexually active men and women are equally at risk of becoming infected with this contagious virus. Most at risk are young men and women up to the age of 26 to 30 years of age.

Of the nearly 200 identified strains of HPV, some produce non-dangerous symptoms like common and plantar warts; both men and women are able to get these simple warts, usually in childhood. Some strains of the virus produce no symptoms at all, so that men and women who have been infected have no idea that they have the virus.

This means that they could be innocently passing it on to sexual partners. Then there are around 30 HPV strains that cause genital warts; these are usually flat, irregularly-shaped lesions that can appear on or in the genitals of both men and women. Warts that occur in the mouth and throat are also classified as genital warts when they are the result of oral sex.

Considered the most dangerous strains are HPV-16 and -18, which are known to be precursors to cervical cancer in women. It is these two strains that have received the most attention and research in recent years because they have been so firmly linked to cervical cancer.

In fact, nearly every case of cervical cancer involves infection with one of these high-risk strains. Research has lead to improved treatment methods for the early sign of cervical cancer called cervical dysplasia, which are highly successful in removing the abnormal cells.

A cervical cancer or HPV vaccine has also been developed for women, administered ideally to girls aged 9 to 12 years before they become sexually active. Older women, especially those under 26 years may also be protected from the two high-risk HPV strains, as long as they haven't already been infected. The HPV vaccine is aimed at HPV-16 and -18 which lead to cervical cancer.

Perhaps the biggest difference between HPV men and in women is the HPV vaccine. Because of the high risk of cervical cancer, the vaccine was developed to prevent the two strains that cause it. This means that the HPV vaccine is only for women and, at this time, there is no official vaccine available for men.

However, one of the two brands of HPV vaccine, Gardasil, has been approved for boys aged between 9 and 15 years, in some countries. As well as protecting women from HPV-16 and -18, Gardasil targets the main HPV strains that are known to lead to other genital cancers such as virginal, vulvar, anal and oral in women and penile, anal and oral in men.

The other major difference in HPV in Women and men is in the area of HPV tests. Women have been encouraged for decades to have regular Pap tests which look for abnormalities in the cells of the cervix, an early warning sign of cancer. An HPV test was developed that diagnosed infection by the virus from a similar cervical sample and to identify the strain.

The HPV test can be performed on the same sample collected for the Pap test or a separate HPV test may be ordered following an abnormal Pap result. Women over the age of 30 are especially encouraged to ask for an HPV test to be done at the same time as their regular Pap test, because the cancer-causing strains can take years to develop in the body. The difference in HPV tests for men is that there is none, although many doctors recommend that their gay male patients have regular anal Pap tests to identify early cell changes which may lead to anal cancer.

As far as HPV symptoms in men and HPV symptoms in women, they are the same. Some strains may lead to cancer, some may cause genital warts, while others produce no visible symptoms at all. Some men and women, infected with a symptom-causing HPV strain will not develop symptoms while others might. Symptoms can also take weeks, months or years to surface.

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