March 15, 2011
Additional evidence tying human papillomavirus to anal, head, and neck cancers in both sexes, and to penile cancer in men, necessitates heightened preventive measures, according to Dr. Joan Murphy, a gynecological oncologist at Toronto's Princess Margaret Hospital. "We need to look again at our publicly funded public health strategy and also our advice to individuals," said Murphy.
A report in the Lancet, "Incidence and Clearance of Genital Human Papillomavirus Infection in Men (HIM): A Cohort Study," indicated the virus, certain strains of which cause most cervical cancer cases, can be found in approximately 50 percent of all sexually active men.
Health Canada, which in 2006 approved an HPV vaccine for girls ages nine to 26 to stave off cervical cancer and genital warts, approved it in 2010 to prevent genital warts in young males. The United States also has approved vaccination of males ages nine to 26.
Murphy urges patients to speak with their care providers about the vaccine. "A proportion of men will benefit from the vaccine, not only from a genital warts point of view, but a cancer point of view as well. The science is not robust enough [in Canada] for approval to be given for use as a cancer indication, but it's only a matter of time," Murphy continued.
Although Ontario funds giving eighth-grade girls the three-shot vaccine, only 65 percent of them receive it. Other patients must pay $120 to $150 (US $122-$152) per shot.
Toronto Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vinita Dubey believes including boys in a comprehensive vaccine push may be possible if the price comes down.
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