breaking news

Trump cancels Palm Beach trip today as government shutdown looms

CDC: Alarming rise in oral HPV cases in men

The news earlier this month that 1 in 9 men — some 11.5 percent — are infected with the oral form of human papillomavirus (HPV) didn’t surprise Michael Becker — but it does alarm him.

That’s because Becker, 48, a married father of two teenage daughters and Philadelphia, Pa. resident, knows all too well how dangerous oral HPV potentially is.

For the last two years, the former biotech executive, Wall Street financier and author of “A Walk With Purpose: Memoir of a Bioentrepreneur” has been battling advanced (Stage IV) oropharyngeal cancer — and publicly advocating for both awareness about HPV-related cancers and the need to vaccinate kids and young adults.

His disease started in a single tonsil — and he never had a symptom. It was self-discovered on the day before Thanksgiving in 2015 when a lump appeared on his neck.

Despite seven weeks of daily radiation and three rounds of concurrent chemotherapy, last year the disease metastasized to his lungs.

Because the cancer has spread below the collarbone, Becker’s doctors have deemed his condition “terminal” — meaning that the chemo treatment goal has shifted from eradication to simply slowing progression.

“At this point, it’s about buying time,” said Becker.

And getting the word out.

“I’d worked in the biomedical industry for more than 20 years, but until my diagnosis, I had no real appreciation for the connection between HPV and cancer in men,” said Becker. “I had always associated it with cervical cancer.”

Historically, that was the case.

However, according the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s latest statistics, while the 40,000 Americans who are diagnosed annually with HPV-related cancer are 60 percent female, the incidence of male HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer has spiked dramatically — with men being four times more likely than women to develop it.

In fact, male HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer is now more prevalent than HPV-related cervical cancer.

Researchers say 70 percent of oropharyngeal cancers are caused by HPV (smoking and/or alcohol consumption factor into the majority of the rest) but are confounded as to explain: 1) why so many more men than women develop oropharyngeal cancer; 2) how oral HPV is transmitted.

As to the former, Ashish A. Deshmukh, an assistant professor at the University of Florida’s College of Public Health and Health Professions, told CNN, “One suspects that the HPV persists longer (means doesn’t clear easily) among men and that might be causing increased prevalence.” He also surmised that, after an initial HPV infection, women might develop a stronger resistance.

As to the latter, despite experts knowing that genital HPV is transmitted via sexual contact, less is understood about the transmission of oral HPV.

The CDC says, “Although some studies suggest that oral HPV may be passed on during oral sex (from mouth-to-genital or mouth-to-anus contact) or open-mouthed (“French”) kissing, the likelihood of getting HPV from kissing or having oral sex with someone who has HPV is not known. More research is needed to understand exactly how people get and give oral HPV infections.”

Thus, Becker urges parents of prepubescent children to “have that awkward conversation with your child’s pediatrician about HPV vaccinations.”

Becker concedes that “while it’s not pleasant for parents to think about their youngsters eventually being sexually active, what we’re talking about here isn’t really an STD vaccination — it’s a cancer vaccination.”

One that Becker and his wife had administered to their daughters at the appropriate age.

And one, he said, “I wish had been available to me when I was their age.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Community

5 questions every woman in her 40s should ask her doctor
5 questions every woman in her 40s should ask her doctor

Women who are in their 40s are in many cases reaching a new stage in their lives. Your children may be more independent, and you might have a well-established career. It can also be a time of change, when it's easier to gain weight, and you may start to see the first signs of menopause. Being informed about the changes you may face during your 40s...
West Palm man has every childhood toy you wish you hadn’t thrown away
West Palm man has every childhood toy you wish you hadn’t thrown away

On their first date, he asked her what she collected. When she said, “stamps,” he gave her another chance. “What’s your favorite TV show from when you were growing up?” he asked. When she answered, “The original Charlie’s Angels,” he told her she should start collecting “Charlie’s Angels&rdquo...
Chris Pratt loved and nuzzled his sheep. Then he ate him.
Chris Pratt loved and nuzzled his sheep. Then he ate him.

The sheep on actor Chris Pratt’s farm had a glorious life on his way to the menu. “He was groomed and shorn, his hooves medicated, de-wormed, no antibiotics necessary,” Pratt, who has filmed movies including “Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2” and “Passengers” in Atlanta, said in a lengthy Instagram post...
Rapper Kodak Black arrested in South Florida
Rapper Kodak Black arrested in South Florida

Rapper Kodak Black was arrested Thursday in South Florida, accused of grand theft of a firearm, possession of marijuana and child neglect, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office said. Black, 20, whose legal name is Dieuson Octave, also faces two counts of possession of a weapon by a felon and two counts of probation violation, the Sheriff&rsquo...
How to survive a break up with your best friend
How to survive a break up with your best friend

When the Four Seasons sang that bit about "breaking up is hard to do," they clearly meant romantic relationships. Breaking up with a best friend might be even harder. "Friends aren't just icing on the cake of life – they're the cake," psychologist Thelma Duffey stated in Psychology Today. "Our friends are the people...
More Stories