It’s not too late to vaccinate. Nope, we’re not just talking about the flu shot. The HPV vaccination is just as effective for men as it is for women, a new study confirms. Experts already say that guys 9 to 26 should get the series of three shots to prevent genital warts, so let this be another reason to call your doc.
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, followed more than 4,000 boys and men ages 16 to 23. Half were randomly assigned to a vaccine group and half were assigned to a placebo group. Within 1 month of receiving the vaccine, over 97 percent of the vaccinated subjects developed antibodies for four different types of the virus, suggesting immunity to those strands of the virus.
Over the course of the 3-year study, only 0.5 percent of those who received the shot developed HPV, compared with 2.8 percent of the control group.
GARDASIL, the most common HPV vaccine, reduces the risk of genital warts in men by 90 percent. It can also reduce the risk of head and neck cancer, anal cancer, and penile cancer—all of which can be caused by HPV—explains Anna R. Giuliano, Ph.D., and lead author of the study.
The virus is common: One out of 16 men and women already have HPV. At least 50 percent of men and women will have the virus at some point in their lives.
The CDC recommends the vaccine for guys ages 9 to 26. (It hasn’t yet been approved for older men.) So why hasn’t it been promoted to men as widely as it’s been recommended to women? Though the vaccine clearly prevents warts, many researchers aren’t convinced that it’s effective against cancer. Plus, anal and penile cancer cases are rare in men—affecting an average of 6,500 men in 2010. In women, the virus is known to cause cervical cancer, which is more common.
In the most obvious sentence we will ever write: Genital warts are no fun. Get the vaccine. “Any doctor that has the vaccination for women will have it for men,” explains Giuliano.