Men may also benefit from HPV vaccine

May 19, 2017

A new observational study suggests men who get the HPV vaccine may have a reduced risk of oral infection that can cause mouth and throat cancers.

This study as the first to explore whether the vaccine might prevent oral HPV infections in young men. As part of a national study from 2011 to 2014, researchers interviewed 2,627 men and women aged 18–33 in the U.S. regarding whether they had been vaccinated, and tested oral rinse samples from them for HPV. The study findings revealed that the prevalence of high-risk HPV infection was 88% lower for those who reported getting at least one vaccine dose compared to those who were not vaccinated.

The HPV vaccine was first approved in 2006 to prevent cervical cancer in women. It is recommended that young girls as young as 11 be vaccinated against HPV; however, vaccination rates remain low.

There is increasing awareness of HPV's other risks. Research suggests HPV is spreading through oral sex. Oral sex does not cause cancer, but HPV can cause high-risk oral infections that can result in cancer. Seventy percent of cancers in the mouth and back of the throat are attributed to oral infections. Oral infections are four times more common in men than women. HPV now causes more mouth and throat cancers in the U.S. than cervical cancers.

HPV is very common: usually the virus goes away without symptoms; some types cause genital warts; and some HPV strains cause people to develop long-lasting infections that can cause cancer.

Since the study was observational, it can't prove the vaccine was responsible for preventing the mouth and throat cancer. The study results were reported in a pre-meeting press cast for the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 2017 Annual Meeting.