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Category: Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Health experts have recommended most strongly that young girls be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus, as it the infection is known to be a primary cause of cervical cancer and positive STD tests linked to the virus are on the rise. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says that boys should be vaccinated as well, as the virus can cause serious health problems in males.
What's at stake?
According to the CDC, more than 90 percent of cases of genital warts are caused by HPV infection. Furthermore, cases of cancers caused by the virus are on the rise. Between 1973 and 2007, there has been an increase of 1 percent per year in cases of oropharyngeal cancer caused by HPV in men. Cases of anal cancer caused by the virus increased 3 percent per year.
Overall, a total of 22,000 HPV-related cancers are diagnosed in the U.S. every year. While cervical cancer in women may be the most common, an estimated 7,000 cancers are diagnosed in men, representing a significant burden.
The new recommendation from the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices says that males between the ages of 11 and 12 should be vaccinated regularly. Furthermore, young men between the ages of 13 and 21 who have never been vaccinated should receive three doses.
Men between 22 and 26 may receive the vaccine if they and their doctors decide it is appropriate. The vaccine is not licensed for individuals over age 26.
Who benefits most?
The CDC report announcing the new recommendations states that men who have sex with men have the highest risk of being infected with the HPV virus, and therefore stand to benefit the most from vaccination. These individuals have higher rates of intraepithelial neoplasia (a forerunner to cancer), anal cancer and genital warts.
Additionally, individuals infected with the HIV virus have higher rates of HPV-related conditions. Given their compromised immune systems, it is generally more effective to prevent further infections than it is to treat them.
The recommendations seek to make it clear that females are not the only ones at risk for receiving a positive STD test and other health problems associated with the HPV virus. Getting more men vaccinated could play an important role in preventing the spread of the infection.
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