There’s a virus that almost everyone gets at some point in their lives. It can cause cancer, and rates of the cancers it causes are growing among men. Paul Cheung / NBC News The virus is the human papillomavirus or HPV, and it’s the main cause of cervical cancer, anal cancer and, more recently, mouth and throat cancer. It’s passed mostly via sex, but doctors aren’t talking about that to their patients. Why not? It’s because there is a vaccine to prevent HPV infection. But for it to work best, people have to get it long before they could ever be infected. That means vaccinating 11- and 12-year-olds, and most parents get very squeamish about the thought of sex and kids that age. “There are some taboo subjects but the fact is that almost every human being is going to get HPV at some point in their life through normal, intimate human activity,” said Dr. Lois Ramondetta, chief of gynecologic oncology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer, once a leading cancer among women. It still causes 11,000 cases of cervical cancer a year in the U.S., but screening via pap smears and, more lately, HPV tests, has cut the rate of new cases and of deaths dramatically. “There’s nothing that men and women can do to prevent oral cancer.” The CDC estimates that HPV causes 31,500 cases of cancer a year. Most are in women, but more head and neck cancers are caused in men than in women. Earlier this week, researchers reported that a startling number of men are infected with HPV in the mouth and throat — 11 percent of all men tested between 2011 and 2014. They are at risk of developing oral cancer. This cancer mostly starts to show up in middle age, and men understandably want to know why they got it. Oral sex appears to be the cause — probably dating back to when they were in their late teens or early 20s. 'Every human being is at risk' But it turns out there’s not much people can do to discover they’re infected. “There is no test to find out a person’s ‘HPV status’,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. “Also, there is no approved HPV test to find HPV in the mouth or throat.” And there’s no way to go back and undo whatever