TORONTO, April 13 (UPI) -- The role of the human papillomavirus in spawning higher cervical cancer rates is well documented by the media and medical establishment. But men are almost three times more likely to be diagnosed with HPV-related throat cancer than women.
A new study out of Canada suggests the HPV vaccine is just as effective for preventing HPV-caused cancers in men, and should be routinely administered to young boys. The HPV vaccine isn't cheap, but the new research suggests initial costs would be offset by savings in the few number of cancer treatments farther down the road. In addition to throat cancer, HPV has been shown to cause penile and anal cancers in men.
Researchers at the University of Toronto built a statistical model to predict what effect early vaccination of young Canadian boys might have on future public health. Her model suggests a vaccine would save lives and money.
By vaccinating more men, authors of the new study argue, the entire population will be better protected.
"If we do start vaccinating men and they have sex with women there will be a herd immunity effect in the opposite direction," Dr. Lillian Siu, an oncologist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Center, told the Toronto Star. "I think I'm naive to think a theoretical model will change government policy, but I think raising awareness is important."
To raise awareness, researchers say they need to do a better job of emphasizing the connection between throat cancer and HPV. The link between HPV and cervical cancer is responsible for the growing number of young women and girls being vaccinated for HPV.
"The idea of an HPV vaccine for boys is new in Canada and so far it has had a low adoption rate," Peter A. Newman, a public health expert at the University of Toronto, explained in a press release. "So we need physicians, social workers and public health care institutions to be more active conveying the benefits of the vaccine for boys and the positive role it can help play keeping Canadians safe and healthy."