Michael Douglas made waves recently when he (maybe) attributed his throat cancer to oral sex. The media kerfuffle around his statement highlighted two undeniable facts: strains of the HPV virus are a leading cause of head and neck cancers, and engaging in oral sex with multiple partners can increase one’s risk of contracting oral HPV.
The HPV vaccine has often been called “the cervical cancer vaccine”, but we’re learning more and more about HPV as we go. Certain strains of HPV have been linked to multiple types of cancer. This is one of the reasons why the HPV vaccine is now recommended for boys as well as girls. (Another being that if boys aren’t carrying HPV, they won’t give it to women they have sexual contact with.)
Coming on the heels of Mr. Douglas’s statement, the CDC stated that HPV prevalence has fallen due to the HPV vaccine. The study, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, compares rates of HPV in young women before and after HPV vaccination became a standard of care.
I’ve written before about the HPV vaccine, and why I believe it’s important that parents of pre-teens consider this vaccination for their child. I also know that every parent will make their own decision, based on their values and the data available to them. (Hopefully, they’ll consider their pre-teen or teen’s view on the topic as well, although perhaps giving less weight to the “I hate shots” viewpoint.)
I covered this in my last post on the HPV vaccine, but I will briefly state the reasons to consider HPV vaccination for your teen or pre-teen:
- The HPV vaccine was developed to lower rates of cervical cancer. So far, we have evidence that HPV vaccination lowers rates of cervical dysplasia, cellular abnormalities that can lead to cervical cancer.
- The HPV virus is implicated in head and neck cancers. In fact, HPV now causes more oral cancers than smoking or drinking (two other culprits).
- HPV vaccination prevents genital warts. While genital warts are not fatal, they are uncomfortable and embarrassing. As one teen said, “I don’t want warts on my junk.”
There are many reasons to consider the HPV vaccine for your pre-teenage or teenage child. Talk to your family health care provider about the vaccine, and post your thoughts below!