Will Vaccinating Everyone Prevent the Spread of HPV?
About HPV – Did You Know that HPV
- That anyone can be transmitters of the HPV virus?
- Some HPV types infect the genital area and may cause warts (“low-risk” HPV), while others may cause abnormal cell changes in men of the anus or penis (“high-risk” HPV) – these types are also linked with abnormal cervical cell changes in women.
- The HPV vaccine will greatly reduce a number of cancers that are associated with this virus; High-risk HPVs cause several types of cancer.
- Cervical cancer: Virtually all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV, and just two HPV types, 16 and 18, are responsible for about 70 percent of all cases (7, 8).
- Anal cancer: About 95 percent of anal cancers are caused by HPV. Most of these are caused by HPV type 16.
- Oropharyngeal cancers (cancers of the middle part of the throat, including the soft palate, the base of the tongue, and the tonsils): About 70 percent of oropharyngeal cancers are caused by HPV. In the United States, more than half of cancers diagnosed in the oropharynx are linked to HPV type 16 (9).
- Rarer cancers: HPV causes about 65 percent of vaginal cancers, 50 percent of vulvar cancers, and 35 percent of penile cancers (10). Most of these are caused by HPV type 16.
- High-risk HPV types cause approximately 5 percent of all cancers worldwide (11). In the United States, high-risk HPV types cause approximately 3 percent of all cancer cases among women and 2 percent of all cancer cases among men (12).
Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are a group of more than 200 related viruses. More than 40 HPV types can be easily spread through direct sexual contact, from the skin and mucous membranes of infected people to the skin and mucous membranes of their partners. They can be spread by vaginal, anal, and oral sex (1). Other HPV types are responsible for non-genital warts, which are not sexually transmitted.
Protecting the Whole – HPV.
The argument that comes into discussion is the overwhelming belief that women and girls should only take the vaccination. In theory, relying on a fraction of the population to protect the whole.
Therefore, would a HPV vaccinating for everyone benefit us all?
HPV infections are the most common sexually transmitted infections in the United States. About 14 million new genital HPV infections occur each year (4). In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 90 percent and 80 percent, respectively, of sexually active men and women will be infected with at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives (5). Around one-half of these infections are with a high-risk HPV type (6).
Because HPV infection is so common, most people get HPV infections shortly after becoming sexually active for the first time (13, 14). A person who has had only one partner can get HPV.
Someone can have an HPV infection even if they have no symptoms and their only sexual contact with an HPV-infected person happened many years ago. Most sexually active couples share HPV until the immune response suppresses the infection. Partners who are sexually intimate only with each other are not likely to pass the same virus back and forth.
At times, HPV can be transmitted during birth to an infant causing genital or respiratory system infections.
It’s reported that half of American men might be infected with human papillomavirus.
Therefore, it’s not just girls who should get the vaccine, though. Men/boys should receive it, too, in order to lower their own risk of cancers associated with this virus.
First, unlike for women, there is no approved screening test for HPV infection in men. You can’t go to a clinic and find out if you carry it. You won’t know until a lesion shows up on your penis, in your mouth or throat, or in your anus. (Be sure a dentist checks your mouth for cancer at every checkup.) One strain, HPV-16, is thought responsible for cancers in men at all these areas. Head and neck cancer, and anal cancer, are on the rise all over the world because we have a lot more anal and oral sex these days.
“For years, professionals have said women are at high risk of getting HPV, but we can now protect them through the vaccine. But no one was thinking about the male role,” Maggie Pitts.
Pitts has been investigating male perceptions of HPV and the vaccine (Maggie Pitts; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
“Women aren’t getting HPV by themselves, so where is it coming from? And the most likely answer was that it is coming from their male sexual partners,” she said. “Males are an important and overlooked population in HPV prevention,” Pitts said. “The more we see equality with HPV messages targeting both males and females, the better. That will help to prevent the spread of HPV and negative health consequences in the future.”
Additional factors which may increase the risk that an infection with a high-risk HPV type will persist and possibly develop into cancer (19).
- Smoking or chewing tobacco (for increased risk of oropharyngeal cancer)
- Having a weakened immune system
- Having many children (for increased risk of cervical cancer)
- Long-term oral contraceptive use (for increased risk of cervical cancer)
- Poor oral hygiene (for increased risk of oropharyngeal cancer)
- Chronic inflammation
Researchers believe that it can take between 10 and 30 years from the time of an initial HPV infection until a tumor forms. However, even when severely abnormal cells are seen on the cervix (a condition called cervical intraepithelial neoplasia 3, or CIN3), these do not always lead to cancer. The percentage of CIN3 lesions that progress to invasive cervical cancer has been estimated to be 50 percent or less (20).
Can HPV Be Treated?
There’s no treatment for the virus itself. But most genital human papilloma virus (HPV) infections go away with the help of a person’s immune system.
Even though HPV itself cannot be treated, the cell changes caused by an HPV infection can. For example, genital warts can be treated. Pre-cancer cell changes caused by HPV can be found by Pap tests and treated. And head and neck, cervical, anal, and genital cancers can be treated, too.
At this time, there is no test available for men to directly test for HPV and diagnosis is made primarily on visual inspection. In certain situations, if men or women have a history of receptive anal sex, it may be advisable to speak with a health care provider regarding the possibility of undergoing an anal Pap smear.