The human papilloma virus (HPV) is a serious health risk and you need know the facts! HPV causes genital warts and 99.7% percent of all cases of cervical cancer in women. This virus does not discriminate by gender. In men, HPV leads to head, neck, anal and penile cancer.
Here are some startling stats that I found on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website:
- Approximately 14 million Americans get infected with HPV per year.
- Every year, HPV causes 30,700 cases of cancers in men and women.
- The HPV vaccination can prevent 28,000 cases of these cancers from occurring.
- HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses.
- Nearly all men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point.
- Most people never know that they have been infected.
Studies have shown that about 75% of new HPV infections occur in young people, aged 15-24. Unfortunately, this is the population which is also least informed. I found a recent study done by Researchers from Texas State University that showed a surprising lack of knowledge among college age students. The majority of students were not aware of how HPV was transmitted or the health risks posed by HPV. Although many of the students knew the association between HPV and cervical cancer, they were unaware of the cancers that occur in men.
Some of this lack of knowledge may be attributed to the fact that testing tools are only available for women. As we know, a PAP smear can detect HPV yet there is no specific test available for men. Due to this lack of testing, many believe the virus is more common in women. However, the rates of infection are nearly equal for men and women.
How is Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Transmitted?
In the same Texas State University study, researchers found that only 15% of the students knew that HPV could be transmitted by skin-to-skin contact. This means that it doesn’t have to be intercourse to transmit HPV, but simple intimate contact can spread the virus. In addition, condoms can’t protect 100% of the time either – contact with skin around the penis, not covered by a condom, can spread the virus. This doesn’t mean don’t use a condom, but it does mean that you can still get HPV if you’re using one.
You Need to Understand the Effects of HPV!
HPV doesn’t just cause genital warts, cervical and penile cancer. HPV can also lead to cancers of the anus, back of the throat, including the tongue and tonsils in both men and women. Pretty scary, right? There is some good news though, the HPV vaccination has led to a marked decrease in rates of genital warts and cervical cancer.
The Human Papilloma Virus Vaccine and Who Should Get Vaccinated
The newest vaccine available is called Gardasil 9 and protects against nine stains of HPV. According to the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), all children at age 9-14, HPV vaccination should be part of routine vaccination schedule. They recommend receiving two shots of Human Papilloma Virus vaccine six to twelve months apart. Previously, three shots were required, but in October 2016, a two-dose schedule was approved. Yet for ages 15-26, three shots are still recommended given over 6 months.
The CDC also recommends the following people get vaccinated if they did not when they were younger:
- Young women through age 26, and young men through age 21.
- Young men who have sex with men, including young men who identify as gay or bisexual or who intend to have sex with men through age 26.
- Young adults who are transgender through age 26.
- Young adults with certain immunocompromising conditions (including HIV) through age 26.
Whether you are a proponent of vaccinations or not, I recommend that you speak with your physician to determine the best decision for you and your family.
In health and happiness,