Men should also be vaccinated against HPV to protect themselves against cervical cancer, said health experts.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a viral infection that is passed between people through skin-to-skin contact. There are more than 100 varieties of HPV, 40 of which are passed through sexual contact and can affect the genitals, mouth or throat.
While the vaccine gives protection to girls and women against cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancer, it also helps protect boys and men against genital warts, penis and anal cancer caused by the HPV virus.
"In US and Europe, more boys and young adults are being vaccinated against HPV. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Gardasil 9 -- the HPV vaccine -- in 2009-2010 for vaccinating boys and men aged nine to 26 years," added Sudarsan De, Director, Jaypee Hospital, Noida.
The experts stressed that both men and women should be vaccinated against HPV before they become sexually active, particularly between the age group of nine to 26.
Besides viral warts, HPV is also one of the factors responsible for malignancies of the oropharyngx (back of throat, base of tongue and tonsils). The virus can spread by way of anal or oral sex in males.
The virus comes in over 100 types, of which HPV 16 and HPV 18 constitute the highest risk and may lead to precancerous lesions. If these go undetected and untreated, these lesions may progress to cervical cancer over the years.
Besides cervical cancers, HPV is also one of the leading causes of oral cancer -- one of the most common cancers in India.
The experts suggest that men and women both need to be aware of the risks and should consult their doctor to take the necessary safety measures.
"HPV certainly plays a role in the development of cervical cancer. In some of the cases, environment and lifestyle may have a major role in developing the cancer. Risk factors include multiple sexual partners, smoking, weak immune system with sexually-transmitted infection," said Sharma.