High-risk human papilloma virus (HPV) is the main risk factor for development of penile and cervical cancer. The foreskin is a reservoir for HPV, and most men, even after infection, remain without symptoms. High-risk HPV (HPV16 for example) may also be transmitted to the cervix of a partner. A significant number of boys who are not sexually active harbor high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) in their foreskin. Non-sexual routes may play an important role in HPV transmission.
In this study from University of Vienna published in the journal Urology in 2013, 50 prepubertal and non-sexually active boys had foreskin specimens obtained after circumcision. 12 different HPV types were identified in the foreskin samples, and median age was 5.5 years, and high-risk HPV was seen in 12% (6 of 50) of boys, and all 6 showed high-risk HPV16. There was no association with age or severity of foreskin narrowing (phimosis). The foreskin is a reservoir for HPV-associated disease. While the mother’s status and hygiene of the boys were not assessed, children may harbor HPV, thereby making the choice for HPV vaccination and/or circumcision even more important for males.