Why should young men get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine?

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Martin M. Anderson, MD
Pediatrics
When the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine first came out in 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended it for girls only, since the disease was most closely associated with cervical cancer. Later, additional studies linked HPV to cancers that also affect men. This prompted the FDA to approve the vaccine for boys in 2009.
 
There are many reasons to give HPV vaccine to males. The vaccine decreases boy's risk of contracting oral, penile and anal cancers related to HPV It makes them less likely to get hard-to-treat warts. Since less than 40% of girls are getting the vaccine, more people can be protected against the disease by also vaccinating boys.
Lynn D. Kowalski, MD
Gynecologic Oncology
Recent studies have shown a benefit for males getting the HPV vaccine says Lynn Kowalski, MD, gynecologic oncologist at MountainView Hospital. In this video, she explains how it helps prevent several types of cancer in men.
HPV is a very common virus in both women and men. HPV can cause anal cancer, mouth/throat (oropharyngeal cancer) and cancer of the penis in men. Every year, there are over 9,300 HPV-related cancers in men.

One HPV vaccine -- Gardasil -- is recommended by doctors and other health experts for boys at ages 11 to 12.

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“There are many reasons we want to give HPV vaccine to males,” says Martin Anderson, M.D., director of adolescent medicine at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. “The vaccine decreases their risk of contracting oral, penile and anal cancers related to HPV, as well as the possibility of contracting hard-to-treat warts. And since less than 40 percent of girls are getting the vaccine, we can ensure more people are protected against the disease by also vaccinating boys.”
Jill A. Grimes, MD
Family Medicine

Males should get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine because it protects against genital warts.


As you probably know from the commercials for the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, it can help protect women from cervical cancer. While males don't have a cervix to get cancer, they do have other parts that get HPV-related cancers (anal and penile, as well as some head and neck cancers), although certainly these cancers are less common.


Obviously, though, males can get genital warts. Little harms self-image like a young person developing these genital lesions, especially because we cannot simply cure them and make them go away forever.


Two strains of HPV (6 and 11) cause 90% of genital warts. Every year there are over a million cases of genital warts in the United States alone. They are common. These warts are transmitted by direct skin-to-skin contact, and though this usually occurs during sex, actual intercourse is not required to pass them on. They are very contagious, with estimates up to 65% transmission.


Warts typically recur despite treatment, and frankly, the treatment is unpleasant at best. You can burn the warts chemically or with liquid nitrogen. If you've ever had a wart frozen/burned off your knee, you know what that feels like, and the genital area has more nerve endings. Enough said!


Gardasil has been approved for use in males. A recent study demonstrated that the vaccine had good efficacy in prevention of genital warts in males. Talk with your doctor (or your child's doctor) about HPV vaccinations for young men and women.