Monday, February 7, 2011

HPV Vaccine (Gardasil)- Don't Forget the BOYS!

I'll bet you could quote the commercial for the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, about choosing to be "one less"- one less woman to get cervical cancer. This is one time where I am pleased that the media is playing a role in pharmaceutical awareness! We absolutely want EVERYONE to know about cervical cancer and the exciting news that we now know not only how this cancer is caused and spread, but most importantly, we know how it can be PREVENTED.

Did you know, though, that this vaccine also protects against genital warts? Two strains of HPV (6& 11) cause 90% of genital warts. Every year there are over a MILLION cases of genital warts in the United States alone. They are COMMON. These warts are transmitted by direct skin-to-skin contact, and though this usually occurs during sex, actual intercourse is certainly not required to pass them on. They are very contagious, with estimates up to 65% transmission. Warts typically recur despite treatment, and frankly, the treatment is unpleasant at best- we burn the warts chemically or with liquid nitrogen. If you've ever had a wart frozen/burned off your knee, you know what that feels like, and the genital area has more nerve endings. Enough said!

While males don't have a cervix to get cancer, they do have other parts that get HPV-related cancers (anal & penile, as well as some head and neck cancers,) although certainly these cancers are less common. Obviously, males can also get genital warts. In my clinical experience, little harms self-image like a young person developing these genital lesions, especially because we cannot simply cure them and make them go away forever.

Gardasil was approved for use in males over a year ago. A study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrated that the vaccine had good efficacy in prevention of genital warts in males. More on this study tomorrow...

BOTTOM LINE: PREVENTION is KEY for HPV disease- talk with your doctor (or your child's doctor) about HPV vaccinations for your SONS & DAUGHTERS.

PS. I am NOT on anyone's payroll for this vaccine- but I absolutely do recommend it.

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