For protection against cancers, both boys and girls benefit from getting HPV vaccine

By Neville Golden and Sophia Yen

On Oct. 25, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that all adolescent boys be immunized against the human papilloma virus, which causes several types of cancer in both sexes. We strongly support this landmark decision, which builds on the CDC’s 2006 recommendation to immunize all girls against HPV.

The vaccines, which protect against either two or four HPV strains, could prevent about 60 percent of mouth and throat cancers, 76 percent of cervical , 87 percent of anal cancer, 31 percent of penile cancer and 44 to 56 percent of vulvar and vaginal cancers. Yet some parents are skeptical of vaccination’s value in cancer prevention or reluctant to immunize their sons and daughters against a sexually transmitted disease.

HPV is the No. 1 STD in the . About 6 million Americans are infected each year. Up to 80 percent of adults are infected with this virus during their lifetimes, with half becoming infected within four years of sexual debut. If you have two sexual partners in your lifetime, you have a 70 percent chance of being infected with one of the four common strains covered by the HPV vaccines.

Fortunately, most people’s bodies get rid of HPV infection spontaneously. However, the oncogenic types of HPV, those that cause cancer, are more likely to persist.

To offer the best protection against cancer, the and medical community recommend that the HPV be given at age 11 to 12, before the onset of sexual activity. According to the 2009 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey, more than one out of every 20 high school students reported they had sex before the age of 13, and 32 percent of high school ninth-graders reported they had had sexual intercourse.

The HPV vaccine is a safe and extremely effective vaccine against certain types of HPV, especially the types most likely to cause cancer. More than 35 million doses of the vaccine have been given in the United States. The only major confirmed side effect after continuous surveillance is pain and some risk of fainting within 15-30 minutes after injection.

Two vaccines are available — the quadrivalent one protects against four types of HPV virus (6,11, 16 and 18) and the other protects against two types (16 and 18). Both protect against types 16 and 18, the cancer-causing types of the virus. The quadrivalent vaccine is the only vaccine currently licensed for use in the United States for boys, but either vaccine can be used in girls. There are approximately 160 types of HPV virus.

As adolescent medicine specialists, we want parents who are struggling with the decision to vaccinate their sons and daughters to understand that the vaccine is very low-risk and the protection it confers against several life-threatening cancers is substantial. Parents who are reluctant to think about their children’s future sexual behavior should consider that even young people who are sexually abstinent until marriage are still vulnerable to infection after marriage from a spouse who had been previously infected. In addition, as adolescent medicine physicians, we often see young patients who have become sexually active without their parents’ knowledge.

The HPV vaccine is the first vaccine that has the potential to prevent more than one type of cancer. We strongly support protecting both boys and girls against these cancers by immunizing them before they become sexually active.

Related Stories

New HPV vaccine under study

date Nov 19, 2007

A new vaccine against nine of the most harmful strains of human papillomavirus is under study at the Medical College of Georgia.

Cervical vaccine also protects against anal cancer risk

date Aug 23, 2011

A vaccine routinely used to shield against cervical cancer caused by the human papillomavirus also reduces women's risk of anal cancer, a study published by the journal The Lancet Oncology on Tuesday says.

Recommended for you

Spicy treatment the answer to aggressive cancer?

date Jul 03, 2015

It has been treasured by food lovers for thousands of years for its rich golden colour, peppery flavour and mustardy aroma…and now turmeric may also have a role in fighting cancer.

Cancer survivors who smoke perceive less risk from tobacco

date Jul 02, 2015

Cancer survivors who smoke report fewer negative opinions about smoking, have more barriers to quitting, and are around other smokers more often than survivors who had quit before or after their diagnosis, according to a ...

Melanoma mutation rewires cell metabolism

date Jul 02, 2015

A mutation found in most melanomas rewires cancer cells' metabolism, making them dependent on a ketogenesis enzyme, researchers at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University have discovered.

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Dec 12, 2011
Disgusting commercial promotion of vaccines - no mention of serious side effects.

Hundreds of girls who received the vaccines have had serious neurological problems and scores died shortly after being vaccinated.

There is NO justification for such a recommendation. Safety is bad and efficacy of the vaccine in *actually* preventing any cancers has not been proven. What has been observed are antibodies against an essentially benign virus. Where is the cancer connection?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.