The HPV vaccine isn't reaching enough young American men, researchers report.
The vaccine protects against reproductive warts as well as cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States.
Many young women get the HPV vaccine to help protect them against cervical cancer, but numbers are much lower among young men, the Michigan Medicine-University of Michigan researchers found. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine for women in 2006 and expanded it to men in 2009.
When the HPV vaccine was first introduced, the main goal was to prevent cervical cancer. But oropharyngeal cancer -- which occurs in the throat, tonsils and back of the tongue -- has now surpassed cervical cancer as the most common cancer caused by HPV. Men account for 80% of those diagnoses, the researchers noted.
Study author Dr. Michelle Chen, a clinical lecturer in the department of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Michigan Medicine, noted that "young adult men especially, who are less likely to have a primary care doctor, are often not getting health education about things like cancer prevention vaccines."
The analysis of data from the 2010-2018 National Health Interview Surveys revealed that only 16% of men aged 18-21 had received at least one dose of the HPV vaccine at any age, compared with 42% of women in the same age group.
Two doses of the vaccine at ages 11 or 12 are recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, but the vaccine still provides protection for people who get three doses by age 26.
But the study found that among people who were vaccinated after age 18, less than a third of men and about half of women received all three vaccine doses.
"Eighteen- to 21-year-olds are at this age where they're making health care decisions on their own for the first time," Chen said in a university news release.
"I don't think that a lot of people, both providers and patients, are aware that this vaccine is actually a cancer-prevention vaccine for men as well as women," she added. "But HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer can impact anyone -- and there's no good screening for it, which makes vaccination even more important."
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on HPV vaccines.
SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, April 27, 2021