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HPV links to throat cancer in males

Fri, Sep 23, 2011

Oral Cancer News

Author: Emese Nemeth

Whether it is your first year or you are returning to college, there are always emails and pamplets about immunizations. While some vaccines are mandatory for public safety and health, vaccines such as Gardasil (also known as Silgard) for the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) are not.

While some may argue that it is relatively new vaccine and side effects may be uncertain, the benefits are starting to out-weigh the risks.

Gardasil was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2006 to vaccinate against the four most common strains of HPV: types 6, 11, 16 and 18. Seventy percent of cervical cancer is caused by types 16 and 18. Types 16 and 18 are also known to cause HPV induced cancer of the anus, vulva, vagina and penis. The other two types, 6 and 11 are known to cause ninety percent of genital wart cases.

More recently, HPV has been linked to induce throat cancer, specifically, oropharyngeal cancer.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology also believes that “the annual occurrence of HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer among men will surpass that of cervical cancer among women by the year 2020.”

Why throat cancer is more prevalent in men is still unclear, but throat cancer still affects both sexes with 6,700 cases of HPV-positive oropharynx cancers in 2010. While cervical cancer is on the decline due to regular pap smears, throats are only examined due to pain or unusual symptoms.

Although Gardasil does not claim to prevent throat cancer, many experts believe that the vaccine can indirectly help prevent the cancer since the vaccine can protect against the same strains found in HPV related throat cancer.

While HPV related cancer cases are generally found in older adults who did not receive the vaccine and no longer qualify for it, these cancers, whether it is throat or cervical, can be preventable by receiving the vaccine.

Currently there is no test to determine whether a male partner carries HPV, leaving many women to find out through pap smears and abnormal cell growth, making this vaccine a viable option for protection against life-threatening cancers.

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