When sexually active men consistently used condoms, their risk for HPV was reduced, according to recent data published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.
‘Consistent condom use offers partial protection against new genital HPV infections and may help men clear existing HPV infections,” Christine M. Pierce Campbell,PhD, MPH, postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Infection Research in Cancer at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, told Infectious Disease News. “These protective effects were strongest among men engaging in high-risk sexual behaviors like casual sex, and among those involved in non-monogamous relationships.”
Pierce Campbell and colleagues conducted a prospective analysis within the HPV Infection in Men Study, which included 4,032 men aged 18 to 70 years who had no prior diagnosis of penile/anal cancer,or HIV. This analysis included 3,323 men who reported recent sexual intercourse with females, responded to questions about condom use and had results. The men were followed for a median of 17.3 months.
The 12-month incidence of HPV was higher among non-monogamous men compared with monogamous men or men with no steady sex partner. Among those with no steady sex partner, the risk for acquiring HPV was twofold lower for those who always used condoms vs. those who never used condoms. Non-monogamous men who always used condoms with their non-steady partners had a 30% higher probability of clearing an oncogenic HPV infection compared with those who did not use condoms. Among monogamous men, there were no observed protective effects associated with condom use.
“These results actually make sense,” Pierce Campbell said. “Unlike many STIs that are transmitted through bodily fluids, HPV is transmitted via skin-to-skin contact. Since condoms do not cover all exposed skin, we would not expect condoms to offer complete protection against these infections.”
Pierce Campbell said that male condoms offer substantial protection against most STIs, and they are cost-effective and widely-available. However, for maximum protection, physicians and public health officials should promote both condom use and prophylactic HPV vaccination, she said.
A limitation to the study is that condom use is difficult to measure, Pierce Campbell said. In the future, studies should incorporate both qualitative and quantitative methods to more accurately assess consistency and correct use of condoms, she said.