The FDA recently approved the vaccine against human papillomavirus for use in boys and men to prevent genital warts. The vaccine has been used successfully in females to prevent cervical cancer, which is associated with the virus.
But should we recommend the vaccine for men?
Studies have concluded that the HPV vaccine was successful in reducing the incidence of genital warts in men, which is associated with cancers of the anus, penis, rectum, mouth and throat, diagnosed in about 8,600 men annually. Plus, preventing the spread of the virus to female partners can potentially reduce the incidence of cervical cancer.
But at what cost? Vaccinating girls against HPV made good economic sense — the same cannot be said for males, mainly due to a lower vaccine efficacy, which reduces the cost-benefit ratio – an important consideration when most cases of cervical cancer are in developing countries that can’t afford the vaccine.
The National Cancer Institute says targeting young women for vaccination, and screening older women for cervical cancer, will have a much bigger impact in reducing disease than widespread male vaccination. And the Harvard School of Public Health says a campaign to include boys for vaccination will cost seven times more than focusing on girls alone, and would be no more effective in reducing the incidence of HPV-related disease.
It’s best to wait for more data before considering using this vaccine on males.
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