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Home Other HPV Cancers Other HPV Cancers ASHA Survey: Men’s Perceptions about HPV and Related Cancers

ASHA Survey: Men’s Perceptions about HPV and Related Cancers

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The results of an ASHA survey indicate men generally have a high awareness of HPV-related topics and take seriously the potential impact of diseases associated with the virus.

The survey, which was designed by ASHA’s Research and Evaluation division, was conducted on the organization’s website this spring. Most of the 271 men were between the ages of 18-34, residents of the U.S., and college educated. 75% of the men identified as Caucasian, while 12% were African-American and 11% were Hispanic. Preliminary results were presented in May 2009 at the 25th International Papillomavirus Conference in Malmo, Sweden.

HPV – Whaddya Know?
A majority of those responding knew that HPV can be without symptoms (92%), some types of the virus can be prevented with vaccine (83%), can cause genital warts (87%), and is common among the sexually active (78%). Most of the men also understood that HPV is not treated with antibiotics (75%), is associated with anal cancers (69%), and that the bulk of infections clear spontaneously (64%).

Less than half were aware that HPV is linked with oral cancer (48%), or that an anal Pap test can detect abnormal cells in men or women (47%).

Regarding the extent HPV related diseases would affect their lives, most (93%) thought that oral, anal, or penile cancer would affect their lives “quite a lot.” Approximately 90% thought these diseases were “somewhat/very serious, life threatening” but most (84%) thought they were at little risk.

Perhaps predictably, men in this survey were less concerned about genital warts: Just over half the respondents said having genital warts would have a moderate or significant impact on their lives and 42% of participants said they think they have little or no risk of developing genital warts.

Among men who knew that HPV is common, a majority said they were very/somewhat likely” to get more information about:  HPV (76%), risk reduction through condom use (74%), and oral/penile/anal cancers (62%). Fewer expressed interest in vaccinations (45%) and anal Pap tests (32%).

Lisa K. Gilbert, PhD, ASHA’s vice-president for Research and Health Communications and the principal investigator with this study, says a hurdle in educating men about HPV [see below] is that experts don’t always agree on key points.  She believes an important step is for researchers and health care providers to reach more of a consensus on cloudy (and thorny) issues such as viral clearance, the risks of oral sex, and the benefits of partner disclosure.

Based on recent ASHA survey data and other research – including an analysis of questions submitted to ASHA’s e-mail response services and Internet message boards – Dr. Lisa K. Gilbert suggests covering these core topics when developing materials or counseling men about HPV:

1.    HPV acquisition/ transmission (and how it isn’t transmitted)
2.    Diagnosing HPV in men
3.    Natural history (common virus, incubation period)
4.    Emotional (psychosocial issues)
5.    Prevention (e.g., anal Pap tests, vaccine)
6.    Risk reduction (e.g., condoms, behaviors)
7.    Treatment options
8.    Signs/symptoms and usually asymptomatic
9.    Disclosure/sexual issues
10.  Rare consequences (HPV-related cancers)