HPV vaccines prevent cancer in both men and women, but fewer children are receiving them, new research suggests

New research suggests that the HPV vaccine prevents cancer in both men and women, but fewer boys are vaccinated in the United States than girls.

The HPV vaccine was developed to prevent cervical cancer in women and experts credit it, along with screening, for reducing cervical cancer rates. Evidence that vaccines prevent HPV-related cancers in men has been slow to emerge, but new research suggests that vaccinated men have fewer mouth and throat cancers compared to those who did not receive the vaccines. These cancers are more than twice as common in men as in women.

For the study, researchers compared 3.4 million people of similar ages (half vaccinated, half unvaccinated) in a large healthcare data set.

As expected, vaccinated women had a lower risk of developing cervical cancer at least five years after receiving the injections. There were benefits for men too. Vaccinated men had a lower risk of developing any HPV-related cancers, such as cancers of the anus, penis, and mouth and throat.

These cancers take years to develop, so the numbers were low: There were 57 HPV-related cancers among unvaccinated men (mostly head and neck cancers) compared with 26 among men who received the HPV vaccine. HPV.

“We think the maximum benefit from the vaccine will occur in the next two to three decades,” said study co-author Dr. Joseph Curry, a head and neck surgeon at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center in Philadelphia. “What we’re showing here is an early wave of effect.”

The results of the study and a second were published Thursday by the American Society of Clinical Oncology and will be discussed next month at its annual meeting in Chicago. The second study shows that vaccination rates are increasing, but men lag behind women in receiving HPV vaccines.

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is very common and is transmitted through sex. Most HPV infections cause no symptoms and go away without treatment. Others develop into cancer, about 37,000 cases a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the United States, the HPV vaccine has been recommended since 2006 for girls aged 11 or 12, and since 2011 for boys of the same age. Refresher vaccinations are recommended for anyone under 26 years of age who has not been vaccinated.

In the second study, researchers looked at self- and parent-reported HPV vaccination rates in preteens and young adults in a large government survey. From 2011 to 2020, vaccination rates increased from 38% to 49% among women and among men from 8% to 36%.

“HPV vaccine uptake among young men has increased more than fourfold over the past decade, although vaccination rates among young men still lag behind those of women,” said study co-author, Dr. Danh Nguyen of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Parents of boys, as well as girls, should know that HPV vaccines reduce the risk of cancer, said Jasmin Tiro of the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center, who was not involved in the research. And young men who have not been vaccinated can still receive vaccines.

“It’s really important for teens to be exposed to the vaccine before they are exposed to the virus,” she said.

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