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The HPV vaccine is pretty well known amongst the public, but mostly as a measure against cervical cancer in women. A recent news article highlights its use in men, and we want to highlight that highlight.

Related HCT episodes:
1. 2019 CDC Reccomendations for HPV Vaccine: https://youtu.be/TT65ayU6fpc

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The HPV vaccine is pretty well known amongst the public, but mostly as a measure against cervical cancer in women. A recent news article highlights its use in men, and we want to highlight that highlight. This is Healthcare Triage News.

[Intro]

A recent article from STAT news pays tribute to Michael Becker, a former Bio-Tech executive who had a form of cancer caused by the human papillomavirus— something that could have been prevented if the HPV vaccine had been around when he was younger. Becker spent a lot of time advocating for the vaccine, especially in men, and for good reason.

The HPV vaccine is largely seen as important for preventing a handful of different cancers, such as cervical cancer, in women. But, HPV doesn't only cause cancer in women. It can also cause penile and anal cancer in men, as well as cancers of the mouth and throat, which are also likely preventable with the vaccine.

Among the almost 39,000 cases of HPV-associated cancers diagnosed each year in the US, almost 16,000 are in males, with oral cancer making up a majority of cases.

But, the belief that HPV is a problem for women is pervasive, and this is reflected in the number of men receiving the vaccine. In 2016, only 37.5% of teen males were up to date on their recommended HPV vaccination series, compared to almost half of females (which is also too low, by the way).

As the STAT news article points out, public perception of the link between HPV and cervical cancer in women has a lot to do with how the vaccine was proven to prevent HPV-linked cancer in the first place. The data from these studies demonstrated that the vaccines ability to prevent precancerous lesions caused by HPV in the cervix. Thus, initial approval of the vaccine was focused on women. In fact, it was recommended for routine use in women about five years before the same was recommended in men.

There's a high likelihood that the vaccine prevents oral HPV infections and related cancers just as it does in other areas of the body, and data have demonstrated the ability of the vaccine to reduce oral HPV prevalence. Nonetheless, we currently lack randomized controlled trials to definitively link the vaccine to prevention of oral cancer— which, like I said, is the most common HPV-related cancer found in men. Thus, the vaccine is not marketed in this way, and public perception has not yet evolved to include the importance of HPV vaccination in men.

Conducting these trials will take time, specially given that cancer occurrence often occurs years after HPV infection. But, let me repeat: it is highly likely that HPV does the same thing in the cervix as it does in the throat, which is cause cancer, and it highly likely that the vaccine prevents HPV infection in the throat just as it does in the cervix. Thus, it is highly likely that vaccine prevention of HPV will prevent HPV-related oral cancer. Based on the current evidence, and consistent with the cost-benefit of all vaccinations, the cost of forgoing to HPV vaccine could be enormous for both men and women. 

[Outro]

Hey! Did you like this video? You might enjoy this other news episode on how the CDC's changed its recommendations for the HPV vaccine.

You might also enjoy supporting the show at Patreon.com/HealthcareTriage. We'd especially like to thank our research associate, Joe Sevits, and, of course, our surgeon admiral, Sam.