While screening and the HPV vaccine have helped reduce the chance of cervical cancers in the last 20 years, the virus has resulted in a rise of tumors elsewhere.
Men with HPV may suffer from throat and mouth cancer if they have oral sex. HPV found in the anus can also lead to rectal cancer in people who engage in anal sex. In fact, it’s believed HPV-causing rectal cancer will be more prevalent than cervical cancer in a few years. (2025).
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Dr. Maura Gillison said people are under the mistaken impression that the HPV vaccine solves the issue of HPV-related cancers. That’s not the case at all, she said.
HPV, which stands for human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted disease, with most never causing symptoms and going away without any need for treatment. However, some can cause genital warts, with others developing cancer.
Since 2006, the HPV vaccine has been available to preteen girls (11 and 12-years-old); in 2011, for boys of the same age. Catch-up shots were suggested for anybody not yet vaccinated until age 26. Experts believe it can take years before actual impact is seen because it can take years for cancer to occur after an HPV infection.
HPV cancer is rising because of the baby boomers’ youthful sexual behavior before the vaccine was available. The vaccine is highly recommended to youth before they are sexually active and exposed to HPV, making it too late for the baby boomers.
The late 60s, 70s and 80s resulted in more people being promiscuous, at least until the HIV epidemic began. With more partners, there were more sexual interactions.
U.S and Taiwan researchers looked at the U.S. cancer statistics and found that over 657,000 cases of cancers were related to HPV. Of those cases, 60% were women, 40% were men.
There was a 3% increase in oral and throat cancers in men and a 3% increase in rectal cancer caused by HPV. According to the data, the most significant decline in cervical cancers was noted in young women who attained the HPV vaccine as preteens. It would suggest that the vaccine had a role in decreasing cancer cases.
While no other screening tests are available, research is currently going on.
Gardasil 9, developed by Merck, is widely available in the U.S., with private and public health insurances covering the drug.
Before the coronavirus hit, there was an increase in vaccinations and infections in young women were dropping. However, research is also showing that it can help thwart the development of oral infection for men.
Vaccinations declined during the lockdown because families often missed appointments to see their doctor. Doctors can encourage parents to vaccinate their children with HPV as they come in to get their COVID-19 shot.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
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