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Study shows who faces the highest risk of contracting HPV and anal cancer


Negatively stained electron micrograph of human papillomavirus (HPV) found in human warts. Author: public domain

Previous sexually transmitted infections and more sexual partners predict new human papillomavirus (HPV) infections in men who have sex with men, other cisgender sexual minorities, and transgender women, according to a Rutgers study.

“Neither of these findings is unexpected, but they are both important,” said Caleb LoSchiava, lead author of the study, published in American Journal of Men’s Health and postdoctoral fellow at the Rutgers Center for Health, Identity, Behavior, and Prevention Studies (CHIBPS). “Anal HPV infections cause about 90 percent of all anal cancers, and high rates of infection among these groups lead to higher rates of cancer. We are just now doing the work to analyze what is really going on so that we can develop effective intervention strategies.”

Previous studies have reported high rates of HPV infection among sexual minority men transgender womenbut a new study followed 137 of them—all young New Yorkers—for five years to see what factors predict new infections with those strains of HPV that pose a high risk of anal cancer (hrHPV).

All patients were examined three times: when they entered the study, approximately two years later, and approximately two years after the first follow-up visit.

At the first visit, 31.6 percent of patients tested positive for anal HPV infection. Two follow-up visits revealed new hrHPV infections in 27 percent and 29.9 percent of patients. In the study, 57.7 percent of participants tested positive for at least one strain of hrHPV at one or more visits, while 42.3 percent never tested positive.

“This study shows the urgent need for more intervention,” LoSchiavo said. “The HPV vaccine can prevent these infections, but vaccination is rare in this population because it was originally only approved for young women and is still associated with patients and health professionals as a method of prevention cervical cancer in women. That has to change.”

Vaccination cannot cure existing cases of HPV, and there are no other treatments, but screening is still important, LoSchiavo said.

“People need to know if they have high-risk HPV so they can choose additional agents cancer screening,” LoSchiavo said. “Additional screening catches problems early, allows doctors to remove growths before they become cancerous, and saves lives.”

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Additional information:
Caleb LoSchiavo et al., Predictors of high-risk anal HPV infection in a cohort of young adult sexual minority men and transgender women in New York City, 2015–2020. American Journal of Men’s Health (2022). DOI: 10.1177/15579883221119084

Citation: Study shows who is at highest risk of HPV infection and anal cancer (2022, September 7) Retrieved September 7, 2022, from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-09-highest-hpv-infection-anal- cancer.html

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