A BuckMD reader asks: If so many forms of HPV do not show symptoms, why isn’t the vaccine approved and recommended for men as well?”
A: The HPV vaccine has finally been approved for men between 9-26 years of age, and is given in a three-shot series over six months. It protects against four types of HPV virus that cause warts, and two of those types can also cause cancer of the cervix in women. It is a fairly expensive vaccine, so check with your health insurance plan to see if they provide vaccine benefits for this vaccine.
HPV is a skin-surface viral infection that can be spread sexually by direct skin-to-skin contact. Condoms can help, but if you have infection in places that the condom doesn’t cover, then you can still spread it. Most HPV warts resolve and go away over time, but they can recur and spread. There are a number of treatments available through your clinician to treat the warts and get rid of them faster.
Since there is a link between cervical cancer and HPV in women, we are often asked about other cancers in either gender. There are links between HPV and penile cancer, anal cancer, and some throat cancers. It will take time to determine if the HPV vaccine protects against these cancers, since most of them are rare. For more information about HPV and cancer, the American Cancer Society has a detailed review available at this link.
Photo credit: Public Health Image Library, CDC
Roger Miller, MD (SHS Preventive Medicine) for BuckMD