The HPV vaccine can also protect boys against cancer. But today girls only get it for free.
From November 2016 women born in 1991 or later are offered free a vaccine against the HPV virus, protecting them against cervical cancer. Girls in the 7th grade have ever since 2009 been offered the vaccine.
But what you likely do not know is that it also may protect against other types of cancers – including some who affect boys.
So far, only women are getting the vaccine for free, although boys are also at risk for HPV-related cancers. Annually, there are about 300 cases of HPV-related cancers that arise elsewhere than in the cervix, according to researchers at the Cancer Registry. There are cases affecting areas such as the vagina, penis, anus and throat.
– Are men informed that they are at risk for HPV-related cancers?
– It varies a lot; some are aware of it, but not all. It’s probably not even all women who are aware of the connection between HPV and cancer, says communications consultant in the Cancer Registry, Elisabeth Jakobsen to Krsby.no.
Girls get the HPV vaccine for free, whereas guys have to pay themselves. The HPV vaccine consists of three doses given over 6 to 12 months and cost a total of just under NOK 4,000, according to the Institute for Public Health.
– If it is true that the vaccine can prevent cancers that can also affect men, boys should also be offered the same deal, according to Henning Rasmussen who Byas comes across outside Sølvberget in Stavanger.
– It is unfair that girls should receive the vaccine for free when it could apply to cancer. The boys should get the same deal, he said.
The Institute for Public Health agrees – and has sent a recommendation to the Ministry of Health about free HPV vaccine for boys. In a recommendation to the ministry the conclusion is that it is desirable to offer the vaccine to boys 12 years of age.
– Ultimately, it is a political issue, since it must be a political decision to introduce gender neutral vaccination, says Jakobsen.
Currently, protection against cancer of the penis and throat has not been sufficiently studied, but the HPV vaccine protects against precancerous conditions involving vaginal, cervical, vulva and anus.
– there is However nothing to suggest that the HPV vaccine will not work against these cancers as well – but it is not easy to investigate this scientifically, partly because cancer of the throat takes longer to develop than for example cervical cancer, says physician and leader of the HPV-section of the Cancer Registry, Mari Nygård, to Kreftregisteret.no.
She also points to a win-win effect:
– By giving boys the HPV vaccine we could prevent many of the HPV-related cancers that men are also affected by – in addition to that we could slow down the incidence of cervical cancer even more, by that the spreading of HPV infection by boys would then decrease significantly.