You’ve no doubt seen the commercials urging parents to immunize their teen and pre-teen daughters against the human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus known to cause cervical cancer in women. But surprisingly, there has been a recent upswing in HPV-related oropharynx (throat) cancer in men.
Recent findings by the National Cancer Institute show that researchers have found the virus is being linked to a rare, but often treatable, form of throat cancer in the male population. If this trend continues to rise, HPV-related oral cancer in men will surpass that of cervical cancer among women in as little as nine years.
How can a virus, often thought only to effect women, be transmitted to a man? Doctors believe it is most commonly spread through sexual contact, like unprotected oral sex. Researchers are unsure if HPV can be transmitted through kissing or sharing items like a toothbrush, straw or eating utensils.
Gardasil, the 2006 FDA approved vaccine for young women (beginning at age nine), was also approved to reduce the risk of genital warts in men (ages nine to 26) just two years ago. Doctors are now looking to see if Gardasil can also prevent oral HPV infections in men.
Early studies have shown that patients with head and neck tumors testing positive for HPV tend to survive longer, and respond better to treatment, than those who test negative for the virus. Between 85 and 90 percent of HPV-related cancer is curable.
If you think you may have been exposed to the HPV virus, or to find out how to get vaccinated, contact the Women’s Health and Menopause Center at 248.932.922.