MEN who have never had sex are still at risk of catching cancer-causing HPV, a new study suggests.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common sexually transmitted disease which affects at least half of people who are sexually active.
Out of the 100 identified types of HPV, around 40 of them affect the genital areas of men and women, and of these roughly 20 are associated with the development of cancer.
Now, a new US study suggests it can be caught and spread among men who have never had sex.
Experts from the University of Texas looked at 87 virgins between the ages of 18 and 70 from Brazil, Mexico, and the US.
They were followed every six months between 2005 and 2009 and the men who did not have sex in that time still caught HPV.
Although men who had been sexually active were twice as likely to catch it.
Alan Nyitray, study co-author and assistant professor in the department of epidemiology, human genetics and environmental sciences at the university, said: “Previous studies have found HPV among female virgins, but this is the first to find it among male virgins.
“Finding HPV in this population was not entirely surprising, but it reinforces the point that HPV vaccination should not be thought of only in the context of sexual behaviour.”
Researchers believe the virus was passed on through sexual contact without intercourse – so hand-to-genital contact.
On top of that, 28 per cent of men who started having sex during the study caught HPV and 45 per cent of those caught it within two years.
Zhiyue Liu, study author and PhD student, said: “These findings highlight the rapid acquisition of HPV after sexual debut among men and thus emphasise the importance of HPV vaccination before sexual debut.”
HPV is the most widespread worldwide and four out of five of the population will contract some form of the virus at least once in their life.
In most cases, the body’s immune system will fight off the virus and there won’t be any need for further tests, in fact, some people may not even know they contracted it at all.
The HPV infection affects the skin and mucosa (any moist membrane, such as the lining of the mouth and throat, the cervix and the anus).
And different types impact different parts of the body, causing lesions – HPV types 1 and 2 cause verrucas on the feet.
Dentists have warned that dating apps such as Tinder are putting more people at risk of catching HPV passed on by oral sex.
There is a vaccine that protects against HPV.
The Gardasil vaccine protects against HPV-16 and HPV-18, which combined are responsible for around 70 per cent of cervical cancers.
The vaccine can also protect against HPV-6 and HPV- 11, the two types of strains that cause most causes of genital warts.
All girls aged 12 and 13 are offered the HPV vaccine as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that all women ages 26 and younger receive the vaccine and it’s not just women, men under 21-years-old should too.
(This story has not been edited by LIPFEED. It has been generated by a syndicated feed)