Wednesday, June 14, 2017

HPV Vaccination Prevents Cancers in Men, Too

Men: A shot that prevents cancers — the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination — is for you, too, though not nearly enough males are getting it. Sadly, physicians say, vaccination rates in males are extremely low, and doctors are seeing more cancers in men caused by HPV.

Nearly half of men aged 18 to 59 years (45.2 percent) have HPV infection, according to this month’s issue of the national medical digest JAMA Oncology. Yet just one in 10 (10.7 percent) of those males eligible for the HPV shots had been vaccinated, based on data collected through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

For years, scientists have touted the HPV vaccination’s power to reduce cervical cancer in women. Now, during Men’s Health Week, Texas physicians urge men to get vaccinated against HPV to prevent cancers. HPV causes several cancers in men and women, including oropharyngeal (cancers of the head and neck such as the throat and mouth), penile, anal, cervical and vaginal. Some cases are fatal.

“HPV vaccination could change the course of health for many men,” said David Lakey, MD, of Austin, chair of Texas Medical Association’s (TMA’s) Council on Science and Public Health. “The decision to get vaccinated during adolescence or even young adulthood could mean you don’t have to suffer from an HPV-caused cancer such as throat or genital cancer, down the road.”

More than 79 million Americans are estimated to have some strain of HPV infection. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, yet there is no treatment for HPV. Half of the infections are believed to occur before people reach age 24. Usually, HPV infection goes away on its own. But when it doesn’t, the infection may cause cancer years later.

According to the JAMA article, more than 9,000 cases of HPV-related cancers are diagnosed each year in men. HPV has been found to cause 63 percent of penile cancers and 91 percent of anal cancers. Throat cancers are becoming increasingly common. Nearly 16,000 oropharyngeal cancers, found in the tonsils and base of the tongue, are diagnosed in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And nearly all genital warts (90 percent) are caused by HPV infections, affecting some 160,000 men each year.

Physicians and other health experts recommend the HPV vaccination for both males and females until age 26. Ideally, adolescents receive two HPV shots for best protection — before being exposed to HPV.

But in Texas, only about one-quarter to one-third of teen males are fully vaccinated against HPV, according to the 2015 National Immunization Survey-Teen.

Older teens and young adults who weren’t vaccinated in adolescence can still benefit from HPV vaccination, said Dr. Lakey, who developed and leads TMA’s HPV Working Group. For those over age 15, however, CDC recommends three shots for full protection.

“If you’re a young male and you haven’t gotten the HPV vaccination, ask your doctor about it,” said Dr. Lakey. “It’s certainly easier and better to prevent a cancer than have to endure potentially lengthy, uncomfortable, and costly medical procedures to treat one.”

TMA’s infographic and fact sheet, both in English and Spanish, explain the importance of HPV vaccination.

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