Friday, July 8, 2016

HPV-Related Cancers Increasing in Men, Women

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports a rise in cancers caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), including cervical and oropharyngeal (head and neck) cancers, as well as vaginal, vulvar, penile, rectal, and anal cancers.

According to the CDC, an average of 38,793 new HPV-associated cancers were diagnosed annually between 2008-2012, including 23,000 in women and 15,793 in men. The CDC estimated more than 79 percent of these cancers were caused by HPV infection. The new numbers are significantly higher than in years past: The 38,793 yearly cases is a 16 percent increase from the previous four-year annual average of 33,369 cases.

The most common types of cancer were cervical cancer in women (11,771 females diagnosed on average each year) and oropharyngeal in men (12,638 males diagnosed, as well as 3,100 females). The CDC published their findings in this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

But HPV — and the cancers it causes — is largely preventable. Physicians say these findings stress the importance that both females and males receive the HPV vaccine.

“In the past, people always felt that the boys needed to be vaccinated to protect the girls but, truthfully, they need to be vaccinated to protect themselves,” Lois Ramondetta, MD, a gynecologic oncologist and chair of TMA’s Committee on Cancer told NBC News. “There is an epidemic of HPV related cancers in men, specifically those of the tonsil and the back of the tongue.”

Yet in the United States, just 40 percent of adolescent females and 22 percent of adolescent males have received all three doses of the HPV vaccine. Adolescence is the best time to get the series of shots.

“We know that almost 100 percent of cervix cancers are caused by HPV, 90 percent of anal cancers are caused by HPV, and about 70 to 80 percent of oropharyngeal — which mostly occur in men — are related to HPV,” Dr. Ramondetta said in a TMA news release. “If more people received the HPV vaccine, we could prevent these cancers by stopping this infection.”

Texas physicians say all adolescents should get the HPV vaccine when they are 11 or 12 years old, as the vaccine is most effective in the body when given before the age of 14. However, older teens and young adults can still receive the vaccine up until age 26.

TMA created an infographic to help educate patients and families about HPV and the HPV vaccine. Download it here in English or Spanish.

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