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J Natl Cancer Inst. 1996 Aug 7;88(15):1060-7.

Male sexual behavior and human papillomavirus DNA: key risk factors for cervical cancer in Spain.

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  • 1Servei d'Epidemiologia i Registre del Càncer, L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Barcelona, Spain.



It is now established that certain types of human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are the sexually transmitted agents etiologically linked to cervical cancer. Studies assessing the contribution of the male's sexual behavior and genital HPV DNA status to the risk of development of cervical neoplasia in sexual partners have yielded inconsistent results.


This study evaluates the role of men's sexual behavior and the presence of HPV DNA in the penis on the development of cervical cancer in their sexual partners in Spain, a low-risk area for cervical neoplasia.


Husbands (n = 633) of women participating in two case-control studies of cervical neoplasia were interviewed to obtain information on lifestyle habits, including sexual practices. Cytologic samples were taken from the distal urethra and the surface of the glans penis of 183 husbands of case women and of 171 husbands of control women. These samples were analyzed by a polymerase chain reaction-based system using a generic probe and 25 type-specific probes for the detection and typing of HPV DNA. Serologic specimens were also obtained and analyzed for antibodies to Chlamydia trachomatis, Treponema pallidum, herpes simplex virus type II, and Neisseria gonorrhoeae.


The presence of HPV DNA in the husbands' penis conveyed a fivefold risk of cervical cancer to their wives (adjusted odds ratio [OR] for HPV DNA positivity = 4.9; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.9-12.6). The risk of cervical cancer was strongly related to HPV type (adjusted OR for HPV type 16 = 9.0; 95% CI = 1.1-77.5), to the husbands' number of extramarital partners (adjusted OR = 11.0; 95% CI = 3.0-40.0; for > or = 21 women versus one), and to the number of prostitutes as extramarital sexual partners (adjusted OR = 8.0; 95% CI = 2.9-22.2; for > or = 10 women versus none). Presence of antibodies to C. trachomatis (adjusted OR = 2.6; 95% CI = 1.4-4.6) and an early age at first sexual intercourse of the husband (adjusted OR = 3.2; 95% CI = 1.7-5.9; for < or = 15 years versus > or = 21 years) were also associated with cervical neoplasia in the wife. After adjustment for these variables and for the wife's pack-years of smoking, the husband's smoking was moderately associated with cervical cancer in his wife (adjusted OR = 2.5; 95% CI = 1.4-4.4; for > or = 26.2 pack-years versus none).


The study supports the role of men as vectors of the HPV types that are related to cervical cancer. Life-time number of female sexual partners, number of female prostitutes as sexual partners, and detection of HPV DNA in the penis of husbands are all surrogate markers of exposure to HPV during marriage.


Men who report multiple sexual partners or who are carriers of HPV DNA may be vectors of high-risk HPV types and may place their wives at high risk of developing cervical cancer. Prostitutes are an important reservoir of high-risk HPVs.

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