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5 things men need to know about HPV

Low awareness of human papillomavirus in males is a barrier to the prevention tools we have at our disposal to eliminate HPV cancers. Here's 5 facts that men need to know about HPV:

HPV affects males as well as females

It is a common misconception that HPV affects females only, as the majority of people associate the virus solely with cervical cancer in women.

Both males and females are susceptible to the virus; nearly everyone will acquire HPV at some point in their lives. In the vast majority of cases, an individual's body will clear the virus and they will suffer no ill effects. For those unfortunate, HPV can cause a range of serious issues.

HPV causes cancers in males as well as females.

HPV causes 5% of all cancers, as well as genital warts and recurrent respiratory papillotosis (RRP).

HPV cancers affect both males and females. The virus is the causal agent of anal, cervical, penile, vaginal, vulvar and some head & neck cancers (sometimes caused oral cancers). In several countries, rates of HPV related head and neck cancers in men overtaken those of HPV-related cervical cancer in women.

There is no screening for HPV cancers in males

At present there are no routine screening programmes for HPV cancers, other than cervical cancer. This means that 5 of the 6 HPV cancers can only caught early if individuals are symptomatic, or lucky.

The cervical screening programme is therefore an essential tool for the prevention of HPV cancers. Cervical screening checks for high-risk strains of HPV, and changes to cervical cells.

The lifetime risk of HPV infection in males remains high throughout their lives

Males have a poorer immune response to HPV than females.

Whilst HPV prevalence is highest in females at age 18-24 years old, for males infection rates stay constant throughout their lifetime. If males are unvaccinated against HPV they are therefore at risk of acquiring a new HPV infection, which poses a risk to their health and that of their loved ones.

Boys as well as girls should be vaccinated against HPV

Both girls and boys should be vaccinated against HPV. Protecting both sexes against HPV gives us the greatest opportunity of preventing HPV-related diseases.

The HPV vaccine is safe and effective. In England, the HPV vaccine has cut rates of cervical cancer by almost 90%.

In the United Kingdom, the HPV vaccine is routinely given to all children in Year 8 and Year 9 as part of the school vaccination programme. In the USA it is recommended for all children from the age of 9 years old.

We have the tools to eliminate HPV cancers. We must grasp the opportunity to end the suffering caused by this virus.

Find out more:

Learn more about cervical screening via Jo's Trust


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