According to experts, the HPV vaccine may be beneficial in males. Men are three times more likely to develop HPV linked oropharyngeal cancers. Most people do not even realize how many men are infected with HPV. Recent recommendations that boys should be vaccinated with the HPV vaccine are causing people to look more into how the disease affects men.
According to the CDC, HPV is so common that most sexually active people will get infected with it at some point in their lives. Men become infected with the disease through vaginal, anal, and oral sex. There are 40 types of HPV. Most types are asymptomatic in men, meaning that they do not show with symptoms or show health problems. Some types cause genital warts; while others cause cancers in the penis, anus and back of throat, tongue and tonsils. Each year there are about 400 men with HPV related cancer of the penis, and 1,500 men with HPV related cancer of the anus.
MSM (men who have sex with other men) and men with weak immune systems are more likely to develop HPV related cancers. There is currently no available screening to test men for HPV, which is why it is difficult to estimate how many men have the disease. For women the Pap smear is the recommended screening for the disease. It is not useful in men. There is no treatment or cure for HPV, there is only means to treat the associated health problems. Condom use can lower the chances of getting HPV, but condoms do not cover all the body, and exposed areas may become infected. Abstinence is the best means to prevent HPV. Monogamy, or sex with only one lifetime partner does not prevent HPV. This information is why doctors believe that the HPV vaccine would benefit men. Each year an estimated 2,370 new cases of HPV associated oropharyngeal cancer are diagnosed in women, nearly 9,356 in men.
New recommendations to vaccinate boys for HPV has arisen much controversy. In the U.S., the HPV vaccine has been controversial since it was released. It was recently reported that in Canada a second province will be including boys in its HPV programs. In all Canadian provinces schools have been offering the HPV vaccine to girls. The expected cost of the extended program will be $11 million a year. Health Minister Fred Horne says the price is a necessity. “Our investments today will reduce health care costs tomorrow, and most importantly, prevent future cases of cancer in Alberta.”
Australia has had an HPV vaccination program in place since 2007. The program has been hugely successful. This year the program was extended to include males ages 12-13. In both Canada and Australia, obtaining the vaccination is voluntary. The vaccines are given only after signed consent from parents is obtained.
New research published in a British Medical Journal compared rates of HPV linked diseases three years before the HPV vaccine program was initiated and four years after. The research showed that two years into the program there was a 59 percent decrease in genital warts in young women 12 to 26 years old. Other findings show how overwhelmingly successful the Australian program is. The extended program is projected to be just has successful, and will be a great benefit to the boys who receive the vaccine.
By Earnestine Jones
The Canadian Press