Throat cancer experts urge male HPV vaccine

Citing a strong link between human papillomavirus (HPV) and throat cancers, a pair of researchers say that vaccination should not be for women only.

About half of oropharyngeal cancers contain DNA from HPV, usually type 16. These cancers are becoming more common and typically occur in men, reported Erich M. Sturgis, MD, MPH, and Paul M. Cinciripini, MD, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. They suspect the virus is transmitted via oral sex with multiple partners, particularly among teenagers and young adults.

In June of this year, the FDA approved a vaccine for HPV-16 and HPV-18 (Gardasil) that would protect these patients against cervical cancer. It is recommended for girls and women, aged 9-26 years.

“The current vaccination strategy will only benefit men secondarily,” the doctors observed. “It is possible that such an effect could take a generation to achieve” (Cancer. 2007;110:1429-1435).

Consequently, they urge “the rapid study of the efficacy and safety of these vaccines in males” and the ultimate vaccination of all teens and young adults.

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