It's been four years since the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine was approved for use in young men, and while subsequent studies show that HPV-related cancers are on the rise -- including cancers of the esophagus and anus -- the preventive measure is still being targeted largely toward girls.
A lag in information is one reason why, Dr. John Deeken, a medical oncologist at Georgetown University, told ABCNews.com, but as administration of the vaccine hits a low, so does resistance to it, according to a study published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics this month.
In the study, researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) found that low-income and minority parents/guardians were receptive toward vaccinating boys against HPV as their awareness about the severe consequences of being exposed to HPV grew. The researchers also found the most prominent barrier to vaccination was lack of information about the long-term efficacy and safety of the vaccine, specifically for males, though a study by researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center last year found that the problem may lie in healthcare providers failure to recommend the vaccine even for African-American girls.
"This study indicates that most parents would accept HPV vaccination for their sons just as readily as for daughters," said the study's lead author, Rebecca Perkins, MD, MSc, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at BUSM.
In February of last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released an official statement explicitly recommending HPV vaccination for boys 11 to 12 years old and catch-up vaccination for those 13 to 21.
As the New York Times reported, the move came about on the heels of data showing that roughly 1 in 15 Americans are infected with oral HPV, and that the disease is especially common among men. Slate.com's Jake Blumgart notes:
Oral malignancies account for 37.3 percent of HPV-related cancers at 32.7 percent. For men, oral cancers make up 78.2 percent of total HPV-related cancer incidences, and they account for 11.6 percent of cases among women. The death rate for oral cancer is three times higher than that for cervical cancer.
The effectiveness of the vaccine in warding off the disease is what has swayed health officials to push the HPV vaccine in recent years, especially among minority men, who are are more likely to suffer from HPV-related diseases and minority women, who have a harder time clearing the human papilloma virus, as another study showed last year.
"Future research should explore the effects of the 2012 recommendations for routine vaccination for males on parental attitudes and uptake of HPV vaccination among both sexes," Perkins said.