What can HPVs cause in men?

in order of frequency

  1. temporary subclinical inflammatory lesions
  2. genital warts
  3. premalignant lesions and cancers

Temporary subclinical inflammatory lesions on the penis are not visible to the naked eye. They are called subclinical because they are not detectable by the physician in a simple clinical examination. They usually last a few months and are then suppressed by the immune system. Recurrences are possible.

Around 1-3% of the male population will get genital warts by the time they reach the age of 50. As a rule, genital warts are benign.

Premalignant lesions caused by HPV in men have been recorded on the penis and in the anal area.

Penile cancer is extremely rare. A very high percentage (80%) of penile cancers are causally linked to infection by carcinogenic HPVs. There are around 600 cases of penile cancer every year in the USA. Due to the rarity of the disease routine screening is not recommended. In those cases however where premalignant lesions have been detected on the penis, they must be treated.

In passive homosexuals, high-risk types of HPV cause premalignant lesions and cancer in the anal canal. About 90% of anal cancers are attributed to HPVs. AIDS patients are at an increased risk of cancer due to the suppression of their immune systems. Efforts are being made to establish routine preventive screening, with tests similar to those for the prevention of cervical cancer in women.

High-risk HPVs are considered responsible for carcinogenesis in the mouth, pharynx and larynx (described as head and neck cancers). It was found that DNA of the specific HPVs is present in many cancers in these areas. Head and neck cancers are not very common. Smoking and alcohol abuse were always considered causal factors.  If we do however accept that even some of these cancers may be caused by HPVs, this is a rather interesting fact, because they could potentially be prevented by HPV vaccinations in boys.