The controversial human papillomavirus vaccine Gardasil may soon be prescribed to men after a recent study revealed that the STD is strongly associated with oral cancer in men.
The new study conducted by the National Cancer Institute and Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions is causing doctors to reevaluate whether or not men should be given the preventative vaccine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 million Americans have HPV.
Over a 31 year period, HPV-related oral cancer rates increased nearly 20 percent in men. It isn’t clear why there are more cases being seen in men, but researchers are pointing to an increase in high-risk sexual behavior and increased numbers of sexual partners. The studies suggest that oral sex is linked to HPV-related oral cancer but the evidence isn’t concrete.
HPV’s link to oral cancer is now as common as tobacco- and alcohol-related oral cancer. HPV-related oral cancer was also diagnosed at a younger age than oral cancer not related to HPV.
The pricey vaccine, which is at the moment only given to women to prevent some strains of HPV, is meant to prevent cervical cancer. Gardasil is the only vaccine proven to protect against the types of HPV that cause genital warts and cervical cancer. Female students can go to Student Health Services for the vaccine which is given in three doses over a six month period.
Mark Denys, the associate director of student and employee health services, said Temple provides the vaccines for $125 per dose. The University of Pennsylvania offers the vaccine at $130 per dose, and Philadelphia University offers it at $150 per dose. Temple’s Health Services will provide receipts so students can be reimbursed by their insurance company.
The high price might be shocking for students, but Denys said the cost of the vaccine “is much less than the cost of treating cervical cancer.”
Currently, Temple has provided 172 doses for 104 students.
Experts say that an HPV vaccine given to men could prevent the spread of the virus. The CDC reports that studies are being done to find out if the HPV vaccine would be safe for men. If the vaccine is considered safe and effective, the FDA will consider licensing it for men.
Denys said that if a man wants the vaccine, he should discuss the risks and benefits with his doctor.
In 2007, Texas Gov. Rick Perry attempted to mandate that public school girls receive the Gardasil vaccine but was unsuccessful.
“Some of the reasons for the controversy include objections from religious groups who feel it encourages promiscuity,” Denys said.
LeAnne Matlach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.