Your Questions Answered: HPV Vaccine for Young Men

Men’s Health Week is fast approaching, June 10-16. This international initiative seeks to build awareness for preventable illness and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. Bringing together stakeholders from all fields, this is a week to encourage men and boys to take action towards improving their health.  

Along with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and prostate cancer, an often-overlooked men’s health issue is Human papillomavirus (HPV)-related cancer. A common misconception is that HPV does not affect men, and that HPV vaccination is not necessary among young boys. Read on to get your questions answered about HPV among men.  

Can men get HPV? 

Yes. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted virus, and any person who is sexually active has a high chance of exposure at some time in their life. Worldwide, 1 in 3 men will be infected with at least one HPV type and 1 in 5 men will be infected with a high-risk HPV type. While low-risk strains of HPV will cause genital warts or no symptoms at all, high-risk strains can lead to cancer if left untreated. Fortunately, the HPV vaccine protects against the most common strains, and therefore can prevent more than 90% of HPV-attributable cancers 

What types of cancer can HPV cause in men? 

High-risk strains of HPV can lead to several types of cancer in men, including penile, anal, and throat cancer. Unlike for women, there are no current screening procedures for HPV in men, so avoiding infection is especially important.  

How effective is the HPV vaccine? 

The HPV vaccine is shown to be highly effective for both men and women. New findings show that the HPV vaccine reduced the risk of HPV-related cancers by 56% in men and 36% in women. Additionally, vaccinated males had 3.4 cases of HPV-linked cancer per 100,000 patients compared to 7.5 per 100,000 unvaccinated patients. Research supports the need for HPV-vaccination at a young age, prior to HPV exposure from sexual contact. Public Health Scotland recently released data showing that no cases of cervical cancer were found in women who had been vaccinated against HPV at age 12-13.  

What can boys and men do to stay protected? 

By following a few straightforward steps, you and other men can stay protected against HPV: 

  1. Boys can stay protected against HPV starting from a young age. The HPV vaccine is given in two doses, six months to twelve months apart. The CDC recommends that all young people get the HPV vaccine at ages 11-12, and can start as early as age 9.  
  2. Adolescents and young adults can stay on top of their health by scheduling regular well-visits and getting each dose of the HPV vaccine on time. Talk to a healthcare provider to make a plan for completing all doses or getting vaccinated if you have not already done so.  
  3. Through adulthood, it’s important to engage in safe sex practices to reduce the risk of becoming infected with an HPV strain not covered by the vaccine.  

Where can I get the HPV vaccine? 

HPV vaccination is readily available for all young people. You can visit your healthcare provider’s office, local pharmacy, community health clinic, school-based health center, or local health department to get the HPV vaccine. Organizations such as Immunize.org also have state-specific resources to help you make a vaccination plan.  

What if I haven’t been vaccinated for HPV yet? 

Everyone through age 26 years should get the HPV vaccine if they were not fully vaccinated already. Some adults ages 27 through 45 who were not already vaccinated might choose to get the HPV vaccine after speaking with their health care professional about their risk for new HPV infections and possible benefits of vaccination for them.   

My son isn’t sexually active, so why does he need the HPV vaccine? 

The HPV vaccine works best when you get it years before you have any sexual contact with another person. That’s why it’s recommended to get vaccinated at ages 11-12, and as early as age 9. People may get HPV in their teen or young adult years, and then develop cancer years later. 

 

Men’s Health Week is a great opportunity to take action towards improving your health, but don’t let your efforts stop there. We want to make sure you get your questions answered so you can feel confident about getting vaccinated and supporting those around you in taking charge of their preventive health. Along with talking to your healthcare provider or pharmacist, Unity is here to help. Check out Unity’s Know Your Vax page for all the latest adolescent vaccine recommendations and learn more from our Q&A resource available for parents and teens 

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Madeline McNee

Madeline McNee

Madeline is an Outreach and Development Intern with Unity® Consortium. She is responsible for supporting the execution and development of key initiatives and strengthening relationships with contributing organizations.

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