Difficulty in elucidating the male role in cervical cancer in Colombia, a high-risk area for the disease

Nubia Muñoz, Xavier Castellsagué, F. Xavier Bosch, Luís Tafur, Silvia De Sanjosé, Nubia Aristizabal, Anthony M. Ghaffari, Keerti V. Shah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Background: Epidemiologic evidence has been inconclusive in linking men's sexual behavior and genital human papillomaviruses (HPVs) with cervical cancer risk in their sexual partners in areas with a high incidence of cervical cancer. Purpose: This study assesses the role of men's sexual behavior and the presence of penile HPV DNA on the risk of their wives' developing cervical neoplasia in an area in Colombia with a high incidence of cervical cancer. Methods: A total of 210 husbands of women with cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade III (n = 118) or invasive squamous cell carcinoma of the cervix (n = 92) and a total of 262 husbands of women recruited as control subjects (173 and 89, respectively) were interviewed. Questionnaires included detailed information on sexual behavior. Exfoliated cells were obtained from the glans penis and from the distal urethra of the penis. The specimens were analyzed for HPV DNA by use of a polymerase chain reaction-based assay that included a generic probe and 25 type-specific probes. Serum specimens were collected and analyzed for antibodies to Chlamydia trachomatis, Treponema pallidum, herpes simplex virus type II, and Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Results: Limited education (adjusted odds ratio [OR] = 4.4; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.9-9.8; for no schooling versus secondary or higher education) and presence of antibodies to C. trachomatis (adjusted OR = 2.5; 95% CI = 1.5-4.4) in husbands were the only identified risk factors for cervical neoplasia in their wives. The prevalence of HPV DNA in the penis was 25.7% among husbands of case women and 18.9% among husbands of control women (adjusted OR = 1.2; 95% CI = 0.6-2.3). Neither the lifetime number of female sexual partners (adjusted OR = 1.0; 95% CI = 0.4-2.6; for >50 partners versus one to five) nor the lifetime number of female prostitutes as sexual partners (adjusted OR = 1.2; 95% CI = 0.7-2.0; for ≤21 prostitutes versus one to five) was associated with the risk of cervical cancer. Conclusions: Our results are compatible with the hypothesis that in the population of Cali, whose women are at high risk of developing cervical cancer, exposure to HPV among young men is a common occurrence and is mediated by contacts with large numbers of female sexual partners and prostitutes. These widespread sexual practices limit the power of case- control studies to detect significant associations between men's sexual behavior and the cervical cancer risk in their sexual partners. HPV DNA detection in the penis of adult men is a poor reflection of lifetime exposure or of etiologically relevant exposure to HPV. The role of C. trachomatis in cervical carcinogenesis deserves further investigation. Implications: Further research is needed to elucidate the male's role in cervical carcinogenesis in populations at high risk for cervical cancer. HPV DNA prevalence surveys and studies of the natural history of HPV in young men will be of great value.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1068-1075
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the National Cancer Institute
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 7 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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