The infection is much more common among men who have had many oral sexual partners, those who have had sex with men and those who are also infected with genital HPV.
Overall, the prevalence of all high-risk and low-risk HPV types was consistently higher in men.
To sort out the epidemiology behind the cancer trends, United States researchers reported new findings on oral HPV prevalence in men and women, shedding light on sexual, lifestyle, and other factors that may help guide public health interventions.
HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the most common STI - Planned Parenthood and the CDC estimate that nearly every single sexually active person will contract one of the more than 200 viruses that make up HPV at some point in their lives. Black men, plus guys who smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day, now use marijuana, and reported 16 or more vaginal or oral sex partners in their lifetime had the greatest chances of a high-risk oral HPV infection, the researchers found. The rate climbed to 22.2% in men who had two or more same-sex oral sex partners.
When the investigators looked at patterns by age, they found that HPV 16 was most prevalent in men ages 50 to 69, which they said could suggest that persistent infection from that strain might be driving higher levels of head and neck cancers in that age-group.
"Genital human papillomavirus (also called HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States", reads a CDC statement.
In-Depth [survey]: This study utilized questionnaires as well as PCR data (detecting 37 HPV types) from oral rinse and penile or vaginal swab specimens from adults 18 to 69 years of age from NHANES.
Previous studies have shown that men have higher rates of overall HPV infections than women. Oral HPV prevalence was 4 times higher in males with concurrent genital HPV infection (19.3%) than in males without it (4.4%).
Unfortunately, many doctors aren't recommending the vaccine, Gravitt said. At the same time, about 40 percent of women carried genital HPV.
In people with same-sex partners, high-risk HPV infections were more common in men-12.7% versus 3.6%.
McGhee, who was not involved in the new study, also published recent research on increasing HPV vaccination rates in an effort to eliminate the virus.
"The incidence of this cancer has increased 300 percent in the last 20 years", said lead researcher Ashish Deshmukh.
"Fortunately, we have a very effective vaccine", she said. Prophylactic HPV vaccination may protect against oral HPV infection. "You can develop all of these types of cancers that's associated with HPV", McGhee said.
Deshmukh also said better methods of screening are needed to prevent cancer among men who already have HPV or who are too old for the vaccine.
But only 11 percent of eligible men have received the HPV vaccine, while only 6 percent of adult men report completing the HPV vaccine series, the JAMA study found.