While it has been established that vaccinating girls against the human papillomavirus (HPV) may help protect them from diseases like cervical cancer, there is an ongoing debate about whether it is economically sound to have similar recommendations for boys. The conclusions of this argument would affect the pharmaceutical marketing strategies for this inoculation, according to a review published in the journal Viral Immunology.
More than 99 percent of cases of cervical cancer are associated with HPV. Furthermore, this virus is associated with a number of illnesses that may affect males as well, including genital warts and cancers of the external genitals, anus, mouth, head and neck.
There are currently two HPV vaccines on the market. While both of them inoculate patients against virus types 16 and 18, one adds types 6 and 11. This latter quadrivalent vaccine has been approved for use in both males and females between the ages of 9 and 26. However, most marketing strategies that promote use of these vaccines are aimed at female patients. Furthermore, most public education regarding the benefits of inoculation comes from the manufacturers. As a result, people may be unaware of the benefits of the vaccine for men and boys.
One challenge to getting more widespread recommendations of HPV inoculation for men is the economic risk-benefit analysis. Current models suggest that if the prevention of cervical cancer through HPV transmission - which may occur as a result of sexual contact with men - were the only variable considered, the cost of vaccination for males might not justify the effort to achieve such coverage.
However, the authors of the new review suggested that economic analyses may differ when taking into account men who have sex with men because HPV can cause different types of cancer and increase the risk of HIV transmission.
For the near future, the researchers recommended that scientists conduct further studies on men who have sex with men, the effects of different HPV types and the value of screening for both HPV and cervical cancer.