(Health.com) — Boys and young men who receive the human papillomavirus vaccine appear to be at reduced risk of contracting the virus and developing the genital warts associated with the common sexually transmitted disease, according to a large international study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.
In an effort to prevent cervical cancer, which can be caused by HPV, public health officials have been encouraging young women to get vaccinated since the Food and Drug Administration approved the first HPV vaccine, Gardasil, in 2006. The vaccine has been approved for boys and men since 2009, but health officials and doctors haven’t pushed it with the same urgency.
“Because the story started with cervical cancer, the studies started with females,” says the lead author of the study, Anna Giuliano, Ph.D., of the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa, Florida. “The study of HPV in men is a late bloomer.”
Gardasil is given in a series of three injections. In the study, which included more than 4,000 sexually active males between the ages of 16 and 26, roughly 0.5 percent of the boys and men who received all three shots developed genital warts during the subsequent 2 to 3 years. By contrast, about 2.8 percent of the study participants who received a placebo vaccine developed warts.
The vaccine also reduced the risk of contracting an HPV that persists for at least six months, though not as dramatically.
HPV can cause certain cancers of the anus and penis in men, although those diseases are far less common than cervical cancer in women.
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