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February 25, 2008

Yes, Men Can Get HPV Too

On today's episode of Evil Slutopia, one of our favorite guest bloggers weighs in on one of our 'favorite' topics.

It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that HPV and its treatment is a hot topic around here. As a guy, I'm always a little frustrated when it comes up because there's really nothing I can contribute to the situation. There's no reliable test for HPV on the market for men, and as such, no real treatment. Nothing I can do. Straight from the CDC

“Currently, there is no test designed to find HPV in men. But HPV
is very common and most men with HPV will never develop health problems from it.
Finding out if you have HPV is not as important as finding out if you have the
diseases that it can cause.”

I'm a little offended by this. The idea that I might possibly want to know if I have a sexually transmitted disease that I could pass on to a partner that would cause her cancer... never seems to have occurred to them. I'm probably being harsh, and there are technical reasons involved, but I'd really prefer they were up front about it if that's the case. Since it's impossible to verify if you've got the disease as a guy, you could be spreading it to your loved one, or anyone with whom you exchange genital contact. Sadly, that may be the only way to confirm you've got the disease. How would you like to have that conversation after your first time doing the nasty with a cute guy?

M: Hey, that was wonderful. You're amazing, you know that?
F: You're not so bad yourself, tiger (It's my fictional conversation, it can be as corny as I like)
M: Hey, I've been wondering about something. Can I ask you a favor?
F: Sure, what is it?
M: Could you make a gyno appointment in like 4 months? I've been wondering if I've got HPV, and you make a great petri dish. Wait, you didn't get Gardasil, did you?

Of course, most men show no symptoms and develop no health problems because our immune systems fight it off. Then again, so do most women. In the US, 11,150 cases of cervical cancer were estimated diagnosed in 2007. An estimated 1,280 cases of penile cancer and 4,650 cases of anal cancer were diagnosed as well (anal cancer is more likely among gay, bisexual and HIV-positive men due to HPV transmission through anal sex and weakened immune systems, respectively). Death rates are much higher for cervical cancer (3,670 est. deaths in 2007) than they are for penile (290) or anal (690) cancers. There is also recent evidence that HPV may play a role in the 5,600 cases per year of oral cancer in the tonsils, lower tongue, and upper throat.

Certainly, cervical cancer is much more prevalent and deserves more attention than the others. But it very much scares me that NO attention is paid to the fact that men can get cancer from HPV, or that we can pass HPV and cancer risk onto our partners. That's not the only thing that scares me, though. It turns out genital warts and cancer aren't all I have to worry about.

(Warning: the following story contains graphic/video links to a plant-man )

is the story of Dede, an Indonesian fisherman whose arms and legs now end in gnarled, root-like extremities. He can no longer work, his wife has left him and his two children, and he has a hard time getting a date (unless he knows someone into dendrophilia). On the upside, he now gets to be featured in a National Geographic show! The cause of his condition? HPV. Well, that and a rare genetic disorder preventing his immune system from fighting the resulting warts. Even so, I haven't had my genome sequenced yet (sounds dirty). How do I know I don't have some rare genetic condition that will turn me into a freakish, half-man half-cumquat or something?

To be honest, I can understand, given the complexity of the disease, that a lot of the concerns I have are not addressed yet. I just wish they'd be up front about it. Just testing whether Gardasil works for guys or not isn't enough, we need some solid research and education. With the spin coming out from the pharmaceutical companies, we really need more information out there so that there's no excuse for not knowing the facts. I should be able to take a little responsibility for my own health, and the health of my sexual partners, by being aware of what I'm carrying in my pants. That's one territory I'm not ready to give up to the feds just yet.

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