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Should men be vaccinated for HPV infections?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the HPV (Human Papillomavirus) vaccine, known as Gardasil, for adults over 27 years old. © Shutterstock

Read to know if men are at equal risk of HPV infections just like women.

Written by Debjani Arora |Published : March 11, 2018 12:19 PM IST

Human papillomavirus or HPV infection is a major public health concern in India and other developing countries. At the moment, the threat of cervical cancer in women due to potent HPV infection is an alarming issue. According to the data released in 2017 by the HPV centre every year 122844 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 67477 dies from the disease. Cervical cancer ranks as the 2nd most frequent cancer among women in India and the 2nd most frequent cancer among women between 15 and 44 years of age. About 5 percent of women in the general population are estimated to harbour cervical HPV-16/18 infection at a given time and 83.2 percent of invasive cervical cancers are attributed to HPV 16 and 18 strains [1]. Here is how you can prevent an HPV infection.

However, this form of cancer is preventable if you get vaccinated. At present, the primary concern is to save women from the deadly HPV infection that causes cervical cancer. This is why we need to spread the awareness that HPV infection is preventable through vaccination. This is not to say that men don t suffer from HPV infections. They can also get this infection while having unprotected sex with their partner who is infected with HPV. In fact, an HPV infection in men can also be life-threatening. In men, if they get infected with potent strains of HPV it could lead to penile cancer, anal cancer (especially, in homosexuals) or head and neck cancer (due to oral sex). In the western counties, the number of men being affected with HPV and suffering from cancer due to this infection is increasing, however, in India, the numbers are less or we don t have data enough to show how it affects men, says Dr Bellarmine, medical oncologist, Fortis Malar Hospital, Chennai. Here is everything you need to know about HPV in men.

Despite lack of data, one cannot rule out the fact that men are too at risk of HPV infections. For men, to be safe from HPV infection and its related consequences, vaccination is the best choice. Though in India, men are not encouraged enough to go for this vaccination, but it is better to get the shot once a man becomes sexually active. Ideally, it is better to get vaccinated for HPV between 11 to 26 years of age for men, says Dr Bellarmine.

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At present, there are no approved diagnostic procedures to test men for an HPV infection. But some doctors do urge for anal PAP smear in men, who are at a higher risk of HPV infection where cells from the anus are collected to check for abnormalities. The diagnosis involves clinical examination for the presence of warts, lesions, sores and ulcers in the genital areas such as penis, scrotum and anal region. If there are long-standing ulcers or sores in the mouth or throat might also indicate a need for HPV diagnosis.

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Reference: [1] https://www.cdc.gov/hpv/parents/vaccine.html

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