The new human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine which is said to prevent about 75 percent of cervical cancer should also be given to boys, men and even women already exposed to the disease causing virus, according to researchers, on Monday.
Presently the human papillomavirus (HPV) has been approved for women aged 9 to 26. However Bradley Monk, , assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California-Irvine, argued that with more widespread use of the vaccine chances that most of cervical cancer can be banished were higher.
He said, "We need to work together to implement this huge breakthrough by widespread vaccination of young people, both genders without regard to risk."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that is ubiquitous in the United States and about 20 million men and women are currently infected.
In addition it has been estimated that about 80 percent of U.S. women by age 50 will be exposed to one of the 100 strains of HPV, known to cause cervical, vulva and vaginal cancer and genital warts in women.
The vaccine Gardasil, developed by Merck has been found to offer protection against transmission of virus Types 16 and 18, responsible for 70 percent to 75 percent of cervical cancer as well as Types 6 and 11 found to be responsible for 90 percent of disfiguring and difficult-to-treat genital warts.
Cervical cancer kills thousands of women a year in the United States and about 250,000 women annually worldwide. Widespread Pap testing that catches the disease in its earliest stages has helped to lower fatalities in the U.S.
Monk said, "Vaccine prevention strategies work when they are applied in a gender-neutral fashion. For example, polio, measles, tetanus, pertussis, diphtheria, rubella, mumps, and Haemophilus influenza B have been nearly eliminated in the United States as a result of this strategy."
For instance vaccinating high-risk, previously unvaccinated adults, all young children routinely and high-risk infants at birth has helped to reduce Hepatitis B infections by nearly 75 percent in the past 15 years.
He said,"Thus, HPV vaccination should be recommended to both boys and girls. Significantly, HPV vaccination of all females regardless of risk as well as vaccination of all boys has been shown to be cost effective with the primary benefit to vaccinating boys being realized through a reduction in transmission of HPV types 16 and 18 reducing to females thus reducing the risk of cervical cancer."
According to Janet Skidmore, a spokesperson for Merck, said studies are under way in men and results are expected soon.
Kevin Ault, associate professor of gynecology and obstetrics at Emory University in Atlanta said, "We suspect that those results will show the vaccine works as well in men as in women."
He said, "We also know that even in women who have been infected with one strain of human papillomavirus, the vaccine is protective against the other strains. The protection is reduced, but it still is effective in reduced rates."
Ault opined that given the protection against genital warts makes the vaccine worth taking.
He said, "Treatment of genital warts is painful for the patient and the doctor. It is difficult to cure, so there are often recurrences."
While the three-dose vaccine would cost about $360 to administer, Ault said that treatment of one episode of genital warts will cost a patients at least double that.
In addition Ault noted other benefits to men besides the reduction of genital warts. He said, "Human papillomavirus is know to be responsible for about 25 percent of head and neck cancers in men, and a high percentage of anal cancers."
Monk pointed out that arguments which say that a vaccine to human papillomavirus might lead to heightened sexual activity by young people are specious.
He said, 'Seat belts do not cause reckless driving, tetanus shots do not cause children to seek out rusty nails, and hepatitis B vaccination has not altered sexual practices or increased injection-drug abuse in any population.'
Research authors said, 'Preventive measures do not always lead to high-risk behavior. It is naive to think that abstinence and monogamy will eradicate the morbidity and mortality of cervical cancer as suggested by some conservative organizations. Society needs to emphasize the benefits of HPV vaccination and find ways to increase its adoption and not create ill-founded barriers. Support and approval of HPV vaccination is not synonymous with support and approval of promiscuity, rather a cry to rally together to eradicate cervical cancer worldwide."