There’s some evidence that human papillomavirus (HPV) can increase your risk of prostate cancer, in addition to other cancers.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that affects your genitals that’s spread by skin contact with someone who has an HPV infection.

Prostate cancer happens when cancerous tissue grows in your prostate, a gland located near your bladder that stores sperm and helps them travel out of the urethra when you ejaculate.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States, so your risk of getting HPV and how it affects your prostate cancer risk is worth considering.

Read on to learn more about the connection between HPV and prostate cancer and what other types of cancer you may be at a higher risk of developing with HPV.

Some research has suggested that there’s a causal connection between HPV and prostate cancer. This means that getting HPV may be a direct cause of cancerous cells developing in the prostate, a process called oncogenesis. The same process is also thought to be responsible for the link between HPV and cervical cancer.

A 2020 review examined evidence from 1,284 cases of prostate cancer and found that HPV played a significant role in increasing the risk of prostate cancer in 325 (22.6%) of these cases. It showed the prevalence of high-risk HPV DNA was significantly higher in people with prostate cancers as compared with people without prostate cancers.

Researchers believe the connection comes from inflammation in the prostate that can result from an HPV infection. Inflammation also increases the risk of benign prostatic hyperplasia, which causes abnormal growth of prostate tissue. HPV can turn these otherwise harmless growths into cancerous tissue.

A 2017 review of studies also supports the idea that HPV plays a role in prostate cancer.

Examining more than 971 cases of prostate cancer from 1990–2015, researchers concluded that HPV was involved in the development of cancerous tissue because of its effect on the APOB gene and how it makes apolipoprotein B (ApoB) — leading to changes in how the gene is expressed and increasing the risk of prostate cancer.

A 2021 study also confirmed the role of ApoB and an enzyme it creates called A3B. Having too much A3B can increase how rapidly prostate cells are produced and raise the risk of cancerous tumor cells being produced, too.

A 2022 article emphasizes the important role that HPV vaccines play in preventing HPV infections and lowering the risk of prostate cancer.

This review touched on the need to understand the relationship of COVID-19 on HPV and prostate cancer risk.

The COVID-19 pandemic kept many people from getting HPV vaccines and other critical care. This may increase the long-term risk of prostate cancer for people who may have been able to prevent HPV with the HPV vaccine.

Men and people assigned male at birth are at a higher risk of other cancers caused by HPV, including:

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about HPV and prostate cancer.

Can HPV turn into cancer in males?

Yes. There’s a clear causal connection between HPV infection and the development of cancer cells in the prostate.

Other risk factors for prostate cancer, such as family history and having obesity, can also make you more likely to get cancer if you have HPV.

Can prostate cancer be sexually transmitted?

Prostate cancer isn’t an STI.

Prostate cancer happens over time as cancerous cells grow in your prostate and replace healthy tissue.

Keep in mind that HPV can be spread through sex, but it’s not the only way that it’s transmitted. Skin contact with someone who has an HPV infection can expose you to the virus, too.

Can the HPV vaccine prevent prostate cancer?

No, the HPV vaccine doesn’t prevent prostate cancer.

This vaccine can help lower your risk of HPV as a cause of prostate cancer. But it can’t stop you from getting it because of the involvement of other risk factors.

What causes prostate cancer?

There’s no specific cause of prostate cancer. But known factors that can increase your risk include:

  • family history
  • gene mutations
  • age
  • race or ethnicity
  • diet
  • where you live
  • smoking tobacco
  • having obesity
  • low levels of physical activity
  • consuming a lot of calcium

Do viruses cause prostate cancer?

Viruses don’t necessarily cause prostate cancer. You can get prostate cancer without a previous viral infection.

But research suggests that viruses, especially HPV, may play a big role in how cancerous cells develop in your prostate gland.

There’s a strong relationship between HPV and prostate cancer because of the way that HPV affects the development of cells in your prostate.

More research is needed to clarify the exact mechanisms that link this virus to prostate cancer cells, but the evidence is suggesting that there’s a direct connection between the two.