I recently wrote about the importance of the HPV vaccine, given its ability to help prevent cervical cancer. But, as it happens, the vaccine isn’t just for cervical cancer and genital warts. Now it seems that the vaccine could also prevent certain types of throat cancers.
That’s right, throat cancer. New research from The Journal of Clinical Oncology shows that throat cancer caused by HPV – usually contracted by oral sex – is on the rise.
According to the New York Times,
The researchers estimated that over all, throat cancers caused by the virus have increased to 2.6 per 100,000 people in 2004 from 0.8 cases per 100,000 people in 1988. If the trend continues, by 2020 the virus will be causing more throat cancer than cervical cancer, the study concluded.
That certainly sounds grim. But, as far as prognosis goes, there is some good news:
Throat cancers caused by HPV are more treatable than those not caused by the virus. Median survival in throat cancer patients with the virus is 131 months; without it, 20 months. Virus-related throat cancers are far more common in men than in women, a difference that has not been explained.
It seems to me, then, that administering the HPV vaccine to boys – as well as girls – could hold some serious promise. Not only in terms of public health outcomes, but also in regards to perceptions that HPV only affects sexually promiscuous girls. Jezebel explains,
Up until now, the HPV vaccine has been a preventive measure against a problem that’s seen as exclusively female, and so it’s been bound up in all of America’s screwed-up ideas about women and sex — there’s the sense, stated or not, that women should just be chaste and then they wouldn’t get nasty viruses. But if HPV starts to affect everyone — and there’s evidence it already has — then a vaccine for it might suddenly have more popular support. And maybe we could finally see HPV for what it is — an infection that needs prevention, not a mark of moral failure.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Of course, throat cancer isn’t the only reason to encourage vaccinating boys. Half of American men are infected with HPV, which can lead to the demise of their beloved penises, either through penile cancer or unsightly genital warts. Oh right, and let’s not forget about anal cancer. Plus, infected men can pass along the virus to women, including the strain responsible for cervical cancer.
It seems only logical that everyone stands to benefit from making this vaccine more efficient – which includes administering it to boys, too. The FDA has approved the HPV vaccine for boys, and the CDC is considering recommending it as well. Its decision could be made as early as this month, so stay tuned for developments!