Gardasil (again) – what’s good for the goose…

February 4, 2007 by
Filed under: Health 

Apparently, boys should be inoculated too. I guess first of all, it would prevent boys/men from getting and passing HPV to girls/women. But that reason alone wasn’t good enough to force offer the vaccine to males.

It’s possible that Gardasil can prevent anal cancer in men:

HPV vaccine may help to prevent anal cancer

The new vaccine against human papillomavirus, which became available last summer, could potentially prevent thousands of cases of cervical cancer. But doctors hope the vaccine will be able to prevent a less well-known, but potentially fatal, disease in gay men, anal cancer. The same strains of HPV cause both cancers.

Although anal cancer can affect anyone, it is most common among men with histories of receptive anal intercourse — an annual rate of about 35 cases per 100,000, and perhaps twice that for those infected with HIV, which weakens the immune system.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the HPV vaccine last year for girls and women from 9 to 26 after studies indicated that it was extremely effective against infection by four of the dozens of strains of HPV, including the ones responsible for most cases of cervical and anal cancer.

“The cervix is similar biologically to the anus, so there’s plenty of hope that it will work there also,” said Dr. Joel Palefsky, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. But he cautioned that its effectiveness against anal cancer remained to be proved.

The anal cancer rate for gay men is similar to cervical cancer rates before the advent of Pap smears, the test that can detect precancerous cell abnormalities. In recent years, some doctors who treat gay men have advised their patients to undergo anal Pap smears as part of routine preventive care.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, with 6.2 million people infected each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though many people clear the virus without having symptoms or knowing that they were infected. And many gay men do not realize they have an elevated risk of anal cancer.

Regulators in Australia and the European Union have approved the vaccine, called Gardasil and made by Merck, for boys ages 9 to 15. They cited data showing that it produced an immune response in boys, though its effectiveness in preventing infection in sexually active men has not been proved.

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