U.S. Health Officials Support Vaccinating Boys Against HPV

The sexually transmitted virus causes a range of cancers, including cervical, penile and oral malignancies

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For one thing, it would be simpler to vaccinate everyone than to have separate guidelines for boys and girls, Saslow said. There's also an argument for gender equity, in that only women are being vaccinated for a disease that affects both sexes, she added.

Another strong argument in favor of male HPV vaccination, Bonhomme said, is that by only immunizing half the population, health officials are not attacking the problem with full force.

"Where are women getting the virus from?" he asked. "If you don't vaccinate the guys, then you aren't helping the women."

HPV has been shown to increase a man's chances of contracting penile and anal cancer, particularly for gay males. Men who have sex with men are about 17 times more likely to develop anal cancer than straight men, according to the CDC.

About 1 percent of sexually active men in the United States have genital warts at any particular time, according to the CDC. Annually, about 800 U.S. men contract HPV-related penile cancer and about 1,100 men get HPV-related anal cancer.

"These are relatively rare cancers," said Saslow. "However, for men who have sex with other men, their risk is significantly higher than the general population."

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston reported Monday that HPV may increase a woman's chances for heart disease, even if she doesn't have any recognized cardiovascular risk factors.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more on HPV.

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