HPV Vaccine and Boys: Know the Facts
The HPV vaccine is known for preventing cervical cancer—and for good reason. Healthcare providers began recommending the shot for females more than 10 years ago. Since then, the rate of cervical precancers linked to common HPV types has dropped 40%.
But human papillomavirus eventually infects nearly every sexually active person, male or female. Boys and men also face consequences. The virus can cause cancers of the mouth, back of the throat, penis, and anus, along with genital warts.
That’s why vaccination matters for boys as well as girls. In 2011, providers began suggesting the shots for all young people. Ideally, all children should get 2 doses, 6 to 12 months apart, beginning at age 11 or 12.
The cost of skipping shots
Despite this guidance, only 28% of boys in the recommended age group have received the HPV vaccine. That’s compared with almost 42% of girls.
This low rate is worrying. In a recent study, about 45% of adult men had a genital HPV infection. One-fourth had a high-risk strain of the virus.
Parents of boys may not realize:
The most common cancer caused by HPV is mouth and throat cancer, which affects more males than females.
Nearly 4 out of 10 HPV-related cancers strike men.
Each year, more than 14,000 American men develop HPV-related cancers.
Males who get vaccinated will also protect their future partners, including women who are at risk for cervical cancer.
Low risk, long-term reward
The shots work best when preteens and teens receive them before becoming sexually active, when they haven’t yet been exposed to the virus. And preadolescents produce more antibodies than older teens.
That’s why healthcare providers recommend starting young—as early as age 9. But even if your son is older, it’s not too late. The government recommends young adults who aren’t already vaccinated receive HPV shots through age 26.
If you have questions about the HPV vaccine, talk with your child’s healthcare provider. Overall, the shots are very safe. Minor side effects include pain, dizziness, nausea, or headaches.
Because of how it’s made, the vaccine can’t transmit the virus. And it provides protection against HPV for years to come—there’s no evidence the protection decreases over time.