Males benefit indirectly when girls are immunized against human papillomavirus (HPV), according to a new study published in The BMJ.
The researchers used a statistical analysis to predict what would happen to cancer levels in men if higher numbers of boys and girls were vaccinated.
Overall, the researchers estimated that the burden of HPV-related cancer in men — a measure that takes into account quality and quantity of life — would shrink by two-thirds if 90 percent of girls were vaccinated.
If vaccine rates stayed at the current rate of 60 percent, the burden of HPV-related cancer in men would drop by 37 percent, according to the study.
As more girls are vaccinated and HPV-related cancer rates drop in men, more boys will need to be vaccinated to prevent one cancer in men, according to the study authors. And, that means that preventing each cancer will become more expensive.
At the current vaccination levels of 60 percent for girls, nearly 800 boys would have to be vaccinated to prevent one additional HPV-related cancer in men.
If vaccination rates in girls jumped to 90 percent, over 1,700 boys would have to be vaccinated to prevent one HPV-related cancer in men.
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“Of all HPV-associated cancers, vaccination of girls will have the strongest effect on the occurrence of penile cancer and the smallest effect on the occurrence of anal cancer in men,” lead author, Hans Bogaards, Ph.D., a research scientist with the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands, told HealthDay.
The reason for the smaller effect on anal cancer is that some of these cancers may be due to HPV infections acquired when men have sex with other men, according to the study authors.