Wednesday, October 15, 2008

HPV virus (cancers) can be dangerous to gay men (even when HIV negative) as well as women

Good Morning America on ABC reports that oral cancers (tongue, tonsils, and throat) has increased rapidly in younger and middle aged people in recent years. The culprit is thought to be the human papilloma virus, or HPV, a DNA virus. Some forms of it cause warts, some forms cause cervical cancer in women, and some may cause encephalitis HIV-infected patients. It is more common in men and women, but does occur in young women and even teens. It is thought to be related to unprotected oral sex. It is speculative as to whether it is transmitted through saliva. Biologically, the oral cancer seems to result from mechanisms similar to those of HPV-associated cervical cancer in women. The virus interferes with the ability of cells to determine that they should stop growing. It is sometimes first noticed by dentists.

Of course, this is usually what is said about HIV. But these oral cancers have occurred in largely HIV-negative individuals.

The link from the Centers for Disease Control is here.

The anti-HPV vaccine is recommended for young females, and recommending it for all sexually active young teens and adults, including (gay) men could become politically controversial.

Early during the HIV epidemic, anal cancers were also noted in young gay men, but these were thought to be related to HIV infection. They could be related to HPV or to even herpes viruses (like type 6).

There was no evidence, however, that HPV was spreading "geometrically" as HIV had done in the 1980s.

The ABC link was not available yet; watch for it today at Dr. Tim Johnson appeared and spoke about the need for "protection".

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