Friday 07 October 2022

Vaccinating boys against the HPV virus protects men against cancer

syringes vaccinationVaccinating boys against the HPV virus, which causes cervical cancer in women, protects them against developing cancers in later years, according to researchers at the VU university medical centre in Amsterdam.

HPV is transmitted by sexual contact and girls have been offered vaccinations against the disease for the past six years. This vaccination programme appears to have had an indirect effect on men, the VU researchers say in Wednesday’s Volkskrant.

When 60% of girls are vaccinated, as has been the case in the Netherlands, the risk that heterosexual men will be infected with HPV goes down by 53%, the researchers say.

Around 30% of cases of throat cancer are caused by HPV as are 85% of cancers of the anus, the researchers say. There were about 550 cases of these cancers in the Netherlands last year.

However, given the vaccination rate under girls is unlikely to go up because of opposition by girls and their parents, the researchers looked at the likely impact of a vaccination programme for boys.

They found that 800 vaccinations among boys would prevent one case of cancer. However, they consider a vaccination programme among teenage boys will only be economically viable if the cost is under €100 per dose, the Volkskrant reports.

Government health experts have called for the vaccination programme to be extended to boys and it is on the agenda at the ministry’s advisory health council. The practice has been introduced in Australia.

The VU research has been published in the British Medical Journal.

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