HPV Vaccinations for Men and Boys

June 13-19, 2011 is Men’s Health Week a month meant to heighten the awareness of preventable health illnesses and injuries and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys.  This month reminds us to encourage men and boys to seek regular medical advice and early treatment for disease and injury.  One preventable illness rarely talked about for boys and men is HPV.

The discussion around HPV (human papillomavirus) generally centers on women and cervical cancer.  But the truth is this disease also affects men.  And men should consider getting vaccinated for HPV, too.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). There are more than 40 HPV types that can affect men and women causing genital warts and cancer (including penile cancer, anal cancer, and head and neck cancers for men). HPV is passed on through genital contact, most often during vaginal and anal sex. HPV may also be passed on during oral sex and genital-to-genital contact. HPV can be passed on between partners—even when the infected partner has no signs or symptoms.  Most people who become infected with HPV do not even know they have it.  And thus can easily pass it on to their partners or get HPV from their partners resulting in warts or cancer which could be prevented.

Approximately 20 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. Another 6 million people become newly infected each year the CDC reports.  HPV is so common that at least 50% of sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives.  About 1% of sexually active adults in the U.S. have genital warts, caused by HPV, at any one time.  HPV causes also cancers including penile cancer, anal cancer, and head and neck cancers.

The male foreskin may be a reservoir for HPV suggesting that boys consider vaccination to prevent later transfer through sexual contact, according to researchers from Innsbruck Medical University in Austria.  A study presented last month, at the American Urological Association’s Annual Meeting, examined foreskins of 133 males – between seven months and 82 years old extracting DNA from 40 tissue sections to assess the prevalence of HPV.  Researchers found low-risk HPV genotypes in 18.8% of the examined foreskins and high-risk HPV in 9.77%.

So because HPV can cause cancer and because HPV can be transferred to sexual partners, men should consider being vaccinated.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first HPV vaccine, Garadsil, in the summer of 2006 for use in women.  In 2009, the FDA approved Gardasil to prevent genital warts in males ages 9 to 26Cervarix is another HPV vaccine that may be effective but is not approved by the FDA for men.  While these drugs have been controversial because of the political moves of many governments considering or implementing mandatory vaccinations (I will withhold my comments on this), the effectiveness of vaccination in preventing the spread of HPV and preventing cancer in men is proven.

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See this Fact Sheet by the CDC – HPV and Men

For a fair and balanced view of the stats see this Information is Beautiful post with infographics.

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4 Responses to HPV Vaccinations for Men and Boys

  1. jennifer says:

    While condoms cannot entirely prevent HPV from being passed between partners, either can vaccinations, and therefore, condoms need to at least be mentioned here. I will not encourage my kids to be vacconated for this, but I will encourage them to use condoms until they are married and/or been tested with their partner. There have been some adverse effects from the vaccine and plus, I just cannot support vaccines from a philisophical standpoint and some don’t support them from a religious standpoint. Therefore, we need to encourage other forms of prevention in order to reduce the spread more effectively.

    • True. Good point – condoms are a great point. Not only do the lower the risk of HPV being passed between partners, but they can lower the risk of contracting other sexually transmitted infections.

      I would say though, that men need to step up and make an effort in protecting their partners from STIs. HPV is a bit more serious for women, causing cervical cancer. And mostly it’s on the women to take preventative measures like this vaccine. I understand that vaccinations have side effects and can be controversial, but it is an option for men.

  2. (PhysOrg.com) — In a new study published in Lancet, researchers from Australia report evidence that the vaccine designed to target the human papillomavirus, or HPV, has dramatically dropped the incidence of lesions in Australian girls that lead to cervical cancer. (http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-06-early-evidence-hpv-vaccine-impact.html)

  3. Tracey says:

    I have been searching the internet extensively since I started the HPV vaccinations for my two sons back in March 2011. Unfortunately my insurance company notified me well into the vaccine process( they had already received the 1st injection) that BOYs are NOT covered?! I had my daughter immunized & our insurance covered her vaccines way back in 2006-07. I had no idea when I started the vaccines for both my sons that the same insurance company, would not cover this vaccine…for boys?! What if any recourse do I have? I have filed an appeal with the company, they are reviewing it? Each injection cost $282 per son, times three injections (6 x $282 =$1,692)…yikes! Talk about discrimination!!

    If the American Pediatric + CDC recommend the vaccines why the push back from the insurance company/companies? I live in New York? Any potential for the legislation/recommendations to catch up with insurance company compliance & coverage soon…before this could head to collection? P.S. the insurance site says they cover the injections with no mention of boy or girl.

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