STDs Expert Forum
HPV concern
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The STD Forum is intended only for questions and support pertaining to sexually transmitted diseases other than HIV/AIDS, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, human papillomavirus, genital warts, trichomonas, other vaginal infections, nongonoccal urethritis (NGU), cervicitis, molluscum contagiosum, chancroid, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). All questions will be answered by H. Hunter Handsfield, M.D. or Edward W Hook, MD.

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HPV concern

I am a 23 year old healthy male. At the end of August, I had protected vaginal intercourse with a female. I just received a call from her today stating that a recent pap smear of hers came back abnormal and positive for HPV(she has had other partners after me). She stated she never had any warts, but this strain could lead to cancer, however she stated that her doctor told her that her immune system would take care of it in a couple months and no action was necessary.

I myself have not had any physical symptoms(no warts)

I wanted see how much risk I am of being exposed to the virus, and what complications could come if any. What are the odds usually of developing cancer from this kind of HPV in men and women.Is it common to usually just clear up on its own?

Do i need to be concerned or worried, is it really an issue for men especially since I used protection, do I need to see a doctor?

If I was exposed, I am assuming I would have the same strain of HPV as she does(one that is cancerous)?

Is there any chance I may get cancer of any kind?


I already told my current girlfriend about it, she is not too concerned and will get tested on her next visit since she said it's more of an issue for females than males.

I am just very new to this virus and not sure what to think since there are no tests for men to determine exposure
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Your GF has the right attitude, and I hope I can move you in that direction as well.  For better or worse, at present HPV is a "fact of life" and most people have it or will have it at some point in the future.  Despite this fact, only a tiny minority of persons with HPV get the consequences of infection (primarily women and primarily cancer and pre-cancerous lesions).  HPV is the most commonly acquired STD.  Over 85% of sexually active women will have HPV infection at some time in their lives.  The figure for men is less well studied but similar.   In some HPV will cause genital warts, in others it will not cause warts but may lead to changes in PAP smears.  In nearly everyone who gets HPV, warts or otherwise, the infections will resolve by themselves without therapy in 8-24 months.  In a very small minority of women, HPV infection can persist and lead to the pre-cancerous lesions that PAP smears detect and which can then be treated.  For men there is far less risk of any sort.  Your risk of cancer is miniscule.

In your case, your exposure was condom protected and condoms have been proven to reduce (but not totally prevent) the risk of acquisition of HPV.  

Finally, I would point out that there is now a vaccine for HPV which is recommended for women and suggested for men of your age.   As you and your sex life move forward, I have no doubt that you will come into contact with HPV from time to time.  the vaccine, while not perfect, is protective.

For additional information on this most common of STDs, I would suggest search for other HPV- and wart-related Q&A on this site, as well seeking addition information on sites such as the American Social health Association web-site (disclosure, Dr. Handsfield and I are both on the Board of ASHA)..

I hope these comments help.  EWH
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thank you doctor for the clarification, I really had no idea that HPV was that prevalent among sexually active adults, I guess chances are I have ran across it before, and most likely never knew.

I will rest easy now since there is no need to worry.
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