25 million Americans are actively infected on any given day with high-risk HPV. We should know more about it. “3 is Key” is the slogan for Gardasil, one of the two vaccines for the HPV. It is recommended that the second vaccination take place about 2 months after the first and the third to take place 6 months after the first. In the United States, a small percentage of young woman elect to receive the vaccination, although a large percentage of these woman do not complete the series. As a result, HPV is on the rise in ‘epidemic proportions’ according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.
Australia started a free school-based program in 2007 to provide the vaccination series starting at age 12. In the seven years since the inception of this program, vaccinated girls age 15-27 had a 61% reduction in genital warts. WOW! A couple of years ago when Australia noticed the success of the program, they opted to include boys in the vaccination program in 2013. After all, HPV is a common STD with an asymptomatic course.
Why include boys? When boys are vaccinated, the won’t spread HPV to their current and future partners and they are protected from the cancers of the throat, penis and anus which are caused by HPV. Also, even though it’s not FDA approved to prevent oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma, the most common cause of oral pharyngeal cancers are HPV16 and HPV18 which this vaccination protects against. White, non-smoking males age 35 to 55 are at highest risk for the HPV associated oral cancers, at a 4:1 ratio over females.
The good news is that most immune systems clear cervical HPV within 2 years and oral HPV within 1 year. Learn more: HPV Fact Sheet provided by the Oral Cancer Foundation.