Arizona Cancer Center Completes Study on HPV in Heterosexual Men

The results raise important issues about the prevalence and risk factors for the primary cause of anal cancer in U.S. men.
July 7, 2008
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Robin Harris, UA associate professor of public health and principal investigator for the human papillomavirus study
Robin Harris, UA associate professor of public health and principal investigator for the human papillomavirus study

Almost 25 percent of heterosexual men who participated in an Arizona Cancer Center study had been infected with the human papillomavirus, which causes cervical cancer in women and is the primary cause of anal cancer in men.

A great deal of research concerning HPV in women has been conducted during the past decade, and a vaccine for HPV in women has been developed. However, research about anal HPV in men has primarily focused on homosexual men. Nationally, the incidence of anal cancer in men has increased almost threefold in three decades.

In their study, researchers from the Arizona Cancer Center looked at the prevalence and risk factors for anal HPV in heterosexual men.

Behavioral data and anal biological specimens were collected from 253 men in Tucson and Tampa, Fla., who acknowledged having engaged in sexual intercourse with a woman during the preceding year.

On the basis of DNA analysis, the overall prevalence of anal HPV infection was found to be 24.8 percent in the 222 men who said they had never had sexual intercourse with men. These results suggest that anal HPV infection may be common in heterosexual men.

Of the men with anal HPV infection, 33.3 percent had at least one of 13 oncogenic HPV types, which are the types that may lead to cancer. Risk factors independently associated with anal HPV were a man’s total number of female sex partners and frequency of sex with females during the preceding month.

Researchers at The University of Arizona and the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa collaborated on the study, which now needs to be confirmed in other populations of heterosexual men. The researchers have secured funding from the National Cancer Institute to replicate the study in a larger group of men from the United States, Mexico and Brazil.

The study’s principal investigator was Robin B. Harris, UA associate professor of public health, and the analysis of anal HPV in heterosexual men was led by Alan Nyitray, research scientist in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the UA’s Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.

The study was sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the Association of American Medical Colleges.

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