HEALTH

Boys should get HPV vaccine too, panel says

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The committee also recommended the vaccination for males 13 through 21 years who have not been vaccinated previously or who have not completed the three-dose series.

(Photo: Associated Press)

Tuesday's vote follows recent studies that indicate the vaccine prevents anal cancer in males. A study that focused on gay men found it to be 75 percent effective. But while anal cancer has been increasing, it's still a fairly rare cancer in males, with only about 7,000 cases in the U.S. each year that are tied to the strains of viruses targeted in the HPV vaccine. In contrast, about vaccine-preventable 15,000 cervical cancers occur annually.

Some feel it's unlikely that most families will agree to get their sons vaccinated primarily to protect girls. An estimated 50 percent to 80 percent of men and women are infected with HPV in their lifetimes, although most clear the infection without developing symptoms or illness, according to the CDC.

The threat of genital warts hasn't been persuasive yet, either: Some data suggest that less than 1.5 percent of adolescent males have gotten the vaccine.

Its use against anal cancer may not be much of a selling point, said Dr. Ranit Mishori, a family practice doctor in Washington, D.C., and an assistant professor at the Georgetown University School of Medicine.

Some parents may say "`Why are you vaccinating my son against anal cancer? He's not gay! He's not ever going to be gay!' I can see that will come up," said Mishori, who supports the committee's recommendation.

There are two vaccines against HPV, but Tuesday's vote applies only to Merck & Co.'s Gardasil, which costs $130 a dose. The other vaccine wasn't tested for males.

Find additional information online at the website of the Centers for Disease Control.

www.cdc.gov/hpv/

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