A recent study published in the BMJ journal and developed by researchers at the VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam, assessed the benefits that arise from vaccinating boys, just like girls, against the oncogenic human papillomavirus (HPV). The study is titled “Direct benefit of vaccinating boys along with girls against oncogenic human papillomavirus: bayesian evidence synthesis“.
Vaccination against HPV has been implemented in several countries with the specific goal to protect women against cervical cancer. However, HPV vaccination can also help men, since they are also at risk for this type of cancers, with the HPV vaccine proving effective when it comes to prevent non-cervical lesions in men.
Boys at 12 years of age were included in the HPV vaccination programs and quality adjusted life years (QALYs) and the number of years necessary to vaccinate were measured. The results demonstrated that before HPV vaccination there was a loss of 14.9 QALYs per 1000 men as a consequence of cancers that could be prevented with vaccines.
Researchers say this burden could be reduced by 37 percent if vaccine uptake in girls continues at the current level of 60 percent. Further, in order to prevent more cases of cancer among men, 795 boys would need vaccines, with tumour specific numbers for penile, anal and oropharyngeal cancer of 3486, 2162 and 1975, respectively. The incidence of HPV related cancer in men could be lowered by 66 percent if vaccination among girls augmented to 90 percent. In that situation, 1735 boys would require vaccination to prevent additional cases.
Johannes A. Bogaards and his team concluded that men can benefit indirectly from the vaccination of girls but the risk of HPV associated cancers remains. Vaccinating boys when the vaccine uptake among girls is high makes sense for the prevention of anal carcinomas, underscoring the importance of the efforts of HPV prevention for men who have sex with men.
Researchers emphasize the importance to vaccinate as many girls as possible even knowing this scenario might not be realistic for several countries, emphasizing further research is required to better delineate strategies to prevent HPV among women and men.