High Alcohol Consumption Associated with an Increased Risk of Human Papillomavirus Infection in Men, Say Moffitt Researchers

October 03, 2014

TAMPA, Fla. – Men who consume more alcohol have a greater risk of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, according to a recent study by Moffitt Cancer Center researchers.

HPV is a common sexually transmitted virus, with more than six million new infections in the United States each year.  HPV causes genital warts in both men and women and is a contributing factor to a number of different cancers in women, including cervical, vaginal and anal cancers. More recent studies have shown that HPV can also cause penile, anal and oropharyngeal cancer in men. However, there is limited data regarding the epidemiology and biological mechanisms of HPV infection in men.

Moffitt researchers analyzed potential risk factors for HPV infection in over 1,300 men from Florida. DNA analysis was used to confirm the presence of HPV and the participants answered detailed surveys about alcohol consumption, smoking and sexual activity. The analysis was part of a larger international study of HPV infection in men called the HIM Study.

The researchers discovered that those men who consumed the most alcohol, on average more than 9.9 grams per day, had a significantly higher risk of HPV infection.  This risk was significant in both men who were current smokers and those men who never smoked. 

They also found that men who drank more alcohol had an increased risk of HPV infection independent of the number of sexual partners they had.  This suggests that increased consumption of alcohol may impair men’s immune responses to HPV, causing a greater risk of chronic infection.

Alcohol is known to inhibit the body’s immune response, causing increased susceptibility to both bacterial and viral infections. Studies have shown that even moderate amounts of alcohol can adversely affect the immune system. 

“Our findings provide additional support to current public health messaging regarding the importance of moderate alcohol consumption, smoking cessation, and safe sex practices.  Additional research is needed to replicate the current findings before clinical interventions can be recommended,” explained Matthew Schabath, Ph.D., assistant member of the Cancer Epidemiology Program.

Schabath’s study appears in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, and was supported by a grant from the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health (CA R01CA098803).

About Moffitt Cancer Center
Located in Tampa, Moffitt is one of only 41 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, a distinction that recognizes Moffitt’s excellence in research, its contributions to clinical trials, prevention and cancer control. Moffitt is the top-ranked cancer hospital in the Southeast and has been listed in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals” for cancer since 1999. With more than 4,500 employees, Moffitt has an economic impact on Florida of nearly $1.6 billion. For more information, visit MOFFITT.org, and follow the Moffitt momentum on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

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