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New HPV vaccine
may also benefit men

New HPV vaccine
may also benefit men

The vaccine for the human papillomavirus could help prevent not only cervical cancer, but also anal cancer, reports TheNew York Times. Both cancers are caused by the same strains of HPV.

Anal cancer is most common in men who have histories of receptive anal intercourse, but it can affect anyone. There is an annual rate of about 35 cases per 100,000, but that figure nearly doubles for those living with HIV.

"The cervix is similar biologically to the anus, so there's plenty of hope that it will work there also," Joel Palefsky, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told the Times.

The vaccine became available last summer after the Food and Drug Administration approved it for girls and women from ages 9 to 26. Studies showed that the vaccine is highly effective against four of the dozens of HPV strains, including the ones responsible for most cases of genital and anal warts, and cervical and anal cancer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States, infecting 6.2 million people every year.

The rate of anal cancer for gay men is similar to rates of cervical cancer before the use of the Pap smear, a test used to detect precancerous cells. Many gay men are unaware that they have an increased risk of anal cancer.

Pharmaceutical giant Merck has made a vaccine called Gardasil that has been approved by regulators in Australia and the European Union for boys ages 9-15. Data shows it caused an immune response in boys, but its ability to prevent infection in sexually active men has not been demonstrated. (The Advocate)

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