(HealthDay News) — Men have a higher prevalence of oncogenic oral human papillomavirus (HPV) than women, and prevalence increases with the number of lifetime oral sexual partners and tobacco use, according to a study published online in the Annals of Oncology.

Gypsyamber D’Souza, PhD, from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and colleagues obtained data from 2009 to 2014 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey; Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results registries; and the National Center for Health Statistics to examine the prevalence of oncogenic HPV DNA and incident oropharyngeal squamous cell cancer.

The researchers detected oral HPV DNA in 3.5% of all 13,089 adults aged 20 to 69 years included in the study; the lifetime risk of oropharyngeal cancer was low at 37 per 10,000. Overall, 8.1 and 2.1% of men aged 50 to 59 years had an oncogenic oral HPV infection or an oral HPV16 infection, respectively, but only 0.7% will develop oropharyngeal cancer in their lifetime. Men had higher prevalence of oncogenic oral HPV than women; prevalence increased with the number of lifetime oral sexual partners and tobacco use. Elevated risk (prevalence, 14.9%) was seen for men who currently smoked and had five or more lifetime oral sexual partners.

“Screening based upon oncogenic oral HPV detection would be challenging. Most groups have low oncogenic oral HPV prevalence,” the authors write.

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D’Souza G, McNeel TS, Fakhry C. Understanding personal risk of oropharyngeal cancer: risk-groups for oncogenic oral HPV infection and oropharyngeal cancer. Ann Oncol. mdx535. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdx535