Differences in oral sexual behaviors by gender, age, and race explain observed differences in prevalence of oral human papillomavirus infection

PLoS One. 2014 Jan 24;9(1):e86023. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0086023. eCollection 2014.


Purpose: This study explores whether gender, age and race differences in oral sexual behavior account for the demographic distribution of oral human papillomavirus infection (HPV) and HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer (HPV-OSCC).

Methods: This analysis included 2,116 men and 2,140 women from NHANES (2009-10) who answered a behavioral questionnaire and provided an oral-rinse sample for HPV detection. Weighted prevalence estimates and prevalence ratios (PR) were calculated for sexual behaviors and oral HPV infection by gender, age-cohort (20-29, 30-44, 45-59, 60-69), and race, and contrasted with incidence rate ratios (IRR) of OSCC from SEER 2009. Multivariate logistic regression was used to evaluate predictors of oral sexual behavior and oral HPV16 infection.

Results: Differences in oral sexual behavior were observed by gender, age-cohort and race. Most men (85.4%) and women (83.2%) had ever performed oral sex, but men had more lifetime oral and vaginal sexual partners and higher oral HPV16 prevalence than women (each p<0.001). 60-69 year olds (yo) were less likely than 45-59 or 30-44 (yo) to have performed oral sex (72.7%, 84.8%, and 90.3%, p<0.001), although oral HPV16 prevalence was similar. Prevalence ratios (PR) of ever oral sex in men vs. women (PR = 1.03), and 45-59 vs. 30-44 year-old men (PR = 0.96) were modest relative to ratios for oral HPV16 infection (PRs = 1.3-6.8) and OSCC (IRR = 4.7-8.1). In multivariate analysis, gender, age-cohort, and race were significant predictors of oral sexual behavior. Oral sexual behavior was the primary predictor of oral HPV16 infection; once this behavior was adjusted for, age-cohort and race were no longer associated with oral HPV16.

Conclusion: There are differences in oral sexual behaviors when considering gender, age-cohort and race which explain observed epidemiologic differences in oral HPV16 infection across these groups.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Alphapapillomavirus / classification
  • Alphapapillomavirus / genetics
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / virology
  • Papillomavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / transmission
  • Population Groups
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Young Adult