Nearly half of all sexually active people will contract some form of HPV within their lifetime. That's right: unless you tighten that chastity belt for the long haul, you have a one in two chance of contracting HPV. Some experts believe that is a conservative estimate. There are a hundred varieties of HPV - the human papillomavirus – and around 40 are sexually transmitted. Of these, some fall into the low-risk category; these strains of HPV, especially HPV 6 and 11, can produce the mother of all mood-killers: genital warts. Genital warts won't kill you. They are irritating and nasty, but they are easily dealt with through creams, medications, and sometimes surgery.
Some HPV strains fall into the high-risk category. These HPV strains are responsible for nearly all cases of cervical cancer. HPV 16 and 18 alone are responsible for approximately 70% of all cases. So can high-risk HPV hurt men? Yes. Though far less common, high-risk HPV can also cause cancer of the penis, anus (most common in gay/bisexual men), vagina, and vulva. Men should be concerned about HPV, as they could pass it to a loved one or anyone deluded enough to have sex with them. Though there is currently no cure for HPV, below you'll find how to deal with the affliction.
Get Rid of HPV
In most cases, the body can get rid of HPV in a matter of a few years, so you'll just have to wait it out. HPV is a virus, which means it replicates in your DNA. Your body can fight HPV into such a deep level of dormancy that it will only return when your immune system is severely weakened. Sadly, you can't get rid of HPV completely – there is no HPV cure as of yet. Women who harbor high-risk HPV and don't fight it could develop cervical dysplasia and eventually cervical cancer.
Right now, getting as many people to get the HPV vaccine (Gardasil) is the only way we'll be able to get rid of HPV as a society. Gardasil does not protect against all types of HPV; however, it does build immunity to HPV 6, 11, 16, 18 and more – those most responsible for genital warts, cervical cancer, and other related genital cancers. The CDC advises all women ages 11 -26 to get the vaccine, and just because you already have HPV does not mean you have every strain. Currently, the FDA is conducting studies to see if vaccinating boys and men is safe and effective.
Limit your risk of contracting HPV (or more of it) by being smart about your sex life. This means more than just avoiding the neighborhood player and/or hussy. Regardless of your religious beliefs, casual sex is dangerous…free love isn't free. Even when you're wearing a condom, you can contract genital warts where there is skin-to-skin contact. Lower your risk of contracting HPV and other STDs/STIs by sexing up a mutually monogamous partner, keeping your partners to a minimum, and yes, staying away from the players and the hussies.
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables – especially those rich in vitamin A and carotenoids – can help the immune system get rid of HPV sooner. Though more research is needed, a recent study in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention found that women who consumed large amounts of vegetables were less likely to have persistent HPV. When the body doesn't get rid of HPV (persistent HPV), the risk of cervical cancer increases. Focus on eating carrots, spinach, sweet peas, kale, cantaloupe, papaya, pumpkins, watermelons, turnips, red peppers, collard greens…and much more. Getting your essential vitamins and minerals will keep your immune system strong.
Women should know that long-term use of oral contraceptives has been connected to an increased risk of developing cervical cancer. Again, 99% of all cervical cancers are the result of the HPV virus; however, the Institute for Research on Cancer found that women who have HPV and have used oral contraceptives for five years are nearly four times as likely to develop cervical cancer. The good news is that the risk decreases once women go off the pill. It appears that the body can get rid of HPV more readily once hormone cycles have returned to normal.
HPV and Cervical Cancer: Get Your Pap Tests
The importance of an annual visit to the gynecologist cannot be overstated. These visits should start at age twenty one, or three years after individuals become sexually active – whichever comes first. Most women don't know they have high-risk HPV until they have a Pap smear at the gyno. When abnormal cells are detected, your doctor will do a DNA test, which can detect HPV 16, 18, and other HPV strains that cause cancer. After it is apparent that you have an HPV infection, your visits will become bi-annual and will include a Pap test and HPV test. Testing is important because doctors can detect and remove precancerous cells before full-blown cancer develops. If cancer does develop, it is best treated early. On a final note, some doctors are encouraging gay men to have regular anal Pap tests, as cancer of the anus is related to HPV in much the same way as cervical cancer.