Young men need HPV, too

by Arielle Zuaro
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the cause of about 6,600 cancers in women and 7,400 in men each year, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two vaccines against the virus, Gardasil and Cervarix, are widely recommended for girls, resulting in a lower rate of cervical cancer. However, recent evidence shows that HPV is also causing an increase in head and throat cancers in men. According to The New York Times, while about a third of all girls aged 13 to 17 have been vaccinated against HPV, less than one percent of boys have    received the vaccine. In light       of these risks, it is essential that boys aged nine to 26 be informed and vaccinated.
“I have heard of HPV before, but never bothered to look it up, so I don’t know what it is,” said sophomore Alec  Rodriguez. Many boys do not understand the importance of being educated and protected against HPV. While their pediatricians might give them the option to be vaccinated, many doctors are not yet promoting it for their male patients as much as for female patients since the information about long-term effects of HPV is so new.
“I have never been asked if I wanted the vaccine,” said sophomore Andrew Warne.
The CDC reports that there are more than 40 strains of HPV, many of which manifest themselves without any clear signals. The virus is spread through sexual contact, specifically direct skin contact. The vaccine has few side effects and requires only three simple shots administered over the course of six months. According to Gardasil.com, many cancers caused by HPV are usually       triggered by a lingering strain of the virus.
With the number of cancers of the head and neck increasing, it is imperative that HPV vaccines are promoted with more urgency. “Seventy percent of men’s oral cancer is caused by HPV,” said Arvind P. Shah, M.D, a pediatrician in Westfield. Most head cancers occur in the throat, tonsils or base of the tongue.
Since the virus is spread through sexual contact, the earlier boys are vaccinated, the less likely they will spread the infection.
“It is best to get the vaccine before the first sexual encounter because after that the vaccine offers only 60- to 65-percent protection,” said Shah. “One of             the scariest new statistics is        that skin contact itself can now lead to the transmission of the virus just from bodily fluid. With this data it is important to protect both genders.”
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease, and between 50 and 70 percent of Americans will be infected at some point during their lives. “Most infections are silent…a physician could look at a person’s skin and not just see HPV lying there,” said Shah.
The HPV vaccine is an attempt to fight the virus and the cancers it causes in both men and women. If the importance of this vaccine is not stressed enough, the population leaves itself at risk as potential victims of this menacing virus.