HPV and Boys

by Dana Demas

HPV and women get a lot of attention for two reasons: HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer and, currently, there is no way to test for HPV in men. (Women can be screened for HPV with Pap smears and the HPV Test.) 

Because of this, the vaccine to protect against HPV infection, Gardasil®, was approved for girls back in 2006.

However, we now know that HPV matters for boys, too. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 7,000 cancers related to HPV could be prevented in men each year with the vaccine, including many head & neck and anal cancers.

In 2009, the HPV vaccine was approved for boys and men ages 9 to 26. The new vaccine recommendations benefit women too, since fewer men with HPV lowers the risk of passing it on to women (and vice versa).

Like many other vaccines, the CDC recommends the vaccine be given at age 11 or 12, so the immune system can develop antibodies before exposure to HPV.

Here are some additional facts about HPV:

  • HPV is a skin infection, spread through skin-to-skin contact with a person who has the virus.
  • There are more than 150 types of HPV. Of these, at least 15 are high-risk HPV strains that can cause cancer. The others cause no symptoms or warts on the skin.
  • Up to 80 percent of women will contract HPV in their lifetime. Men get HPV, too, but there is no test for them.
  • In most cases, the immune system will clear the HPV virus before there is a symptom, including the high-risk types of HPV.
  • Only a small percentage of people with high-risk HPV go on to develop cancer.