CDC recommends HPV vaccine for boys

By Amy Mayer • Published: July 13th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Human papilloma virus, or H-P-V, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States and a well-known cause of cervical cancer in women.

The H-P-V vaccine has been recommended for adolescent girls since 2006. But did you know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adolescent boys get the vaccine, too? In fact, the C-D-C’s 2011 recommendation about boys stems not only from their ability to pass the virus on to female sexual partners, but also because H-P-V could lead to several cancers in men. Vaccination in adolescence can help prevent those. But a new study shows that many primary care providers are unaware of the relationship between H-P-V and these cancers.

A study published in the American Journal of Men’s Health surveyed 31 primary care providers in the Boston area. Researchers found that providers’ knowledge of the male cancers related to H-P-V was lacking. Only two knew the vaccine had cancer-preventing benefits in boys. Ten were aware the vaccine could prevent genital warts, but most didn’t feel that was sufficient reason to vaccinate all boys. Even among the doctors and nurse practitioners who supported vaccinating boys, only a small number actually offered it to patients.

The study documented the providers’ expectation that vaccinating boys would be a — quote — “hard sell” to parents. Some said protecting the boys’ future sexual partners — an altruistic motive — wouldn’t appeal. They also worried that universal vaccination might not be a cost-effective preventive measure. But among providers who did recommend it, the fears were not realized. Parents and patients responded positively and accepted the vaccination. Now, those boys are less likely to become one of the 7,000 men diagnosed with H-P-V-related cancers each year.

And they are helping to protect their future girlfriends, too. That beats flowers and candy any day.