One-Third of Men Worldwide Carry Genital Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

A recent research study, published in The Lancet Global Health, has revealed a concerning fact – nearly 1 in 3 men aged 15 and above are currently infected with at least one type of genital human papillomavirus (HPV). What’s even more alarming is that 1 in 5 men harbor one or more high-risk, oncogenic HPV strains. These findings underscore a critical need to involve men in initiatives aimed at controlling HPV infection and reducing its associated diseases in both genders.

This comprehensive analysis, which included a systematic review and meta-analysis, sought to gauge the prevalence of genital HPV infection in the general male population. The study spanned publications from 1995 to 2022. The global average prevalence stood at 31% for any HPV infection and 21% for high-risk HPV. Among the HPV types, HPV-16 held the highest prevalence at 5%, followed closely by HPV-6 at 4%. Notably, HPV prevalence was highest among young adults, peaking between the ages of 25 and 29 before stabilizing or experiencing a slight decline. Regionally, the prevalence estimates aligned closely across different regions, including Europe, Northern America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania. Eastern and South-Eastern Asia reported a significantly lower prevalence compared to these regions.

While most HPV infections in both men and women remain asymptomatic, they can lead to severe long-term consequences and, in some cases, even mortality. Each year, over 340,000 women lose their lives to cervical cancer. In men, HPV infections typically manifest as anogenital warts, causing substantial discomfort and increasing HPV transmission rates. HPV infections are also linked to cancers affecting the penis, anus, and oropharynx, with HPV type 16 being a common culprit. In 2018 alone, the International Agency for Research on Cancer estimated that HPV caused approximately 69,400 cases of cancer in men.

Dr. Meg Doherty, Director of WHO’s Global HIV, Hepatitis, and Sexually Transmitted Infections Programs, commented on this global study’s significance, emphasizing the widespread nature of HPV infection among men. High-risk HPV types can lead to genital warts, as well as oral, penile, and anal cancers in men. Dr. Doherty urged the continuous pursuit of opportunities to prevent HPV infection and reduce the incidence of HPV-related diseases in both men and women.


1. Sung H, Ferlay J, Siegel RL, et al. Global Cancer Statistics 2020: GLOBOCAN estimates of incidence and mortality worldwide for 36 cancers in 185 countries. CA Cancer J Clin 2021; 71: 209–49

2. C de Martel, D Georges, F Bray, J Ferlay, and GM Clifford, Global burden of cancer attributable to infections in 2018: a worldwide incidence analysis, Lancet Glob Health, 8 (2020), pp. e180-e190

3. AR Giuliano, G Anic, AG Nyitray, Epidemiology and pathology of HPV disease in males, Gynecol Oncol, 117 (suppl) (2010), pp. S15-S19

4. S de Sanjosé, B Serrano, S Tous, et al., Burden of human papillomavirus (HPV)-related cancers attributable to HPVs 6/11/16/18/31/33/45/52 and 58, JNCI Cancer Spectr, 2 (2019), Article pky045

5. S Varga, X Wang, K Luttropp, et al., Global burden of HPV-related cancers in men: a systematic literature review, J Clin Oncol, 37 (2019), Article e13108

Leave a Comment