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Should My Son Receive the HPV Vaccine?

HPV is most commonly known for causing cancer in women, with 12,000 cervical cancer and 18,000 total cancer diagnoses being attributed to HPV in women each year.   Although recommendations in the past focused solely on vaccination of girls and women, starting in 2011 the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended use of the HPV vaccine Gardasil for boys at age 11 or 12 – the same level of recommendation issued for girls of the this age group. It is also recommended that young men ages 13-21 who have not previously received the full 3 doses of the vaccine be vaccinated.

What Are the Risks HPV Poses to Boys?

The ACIP’ s decision to recommend vaccination in boys is due to many risks HPV poses to boys of which many parents are not aware.

Cancer – HPV is responsible for 7500 cancer diagnoses in men each year including:

  • 5600 oropharynx (back of throat) cancers
  • 1500 anal cancers
  • 400 penile cancers

While prevention of some of these cancers is still unproven with use of Gardasil, there is evidence that the vaccine does prevent anal pre-cancers as well genital warts.

Genital warts – Genital warts are extremely common, with approximately 500,000 new cases a year in the U.S., and approximately 90% of genital warts are caused by infection with HPV types 6 and 11 which can be prevented with Gardasil.

Other Reasons to Vaccinate for HPV

Protect female partners from infection – Prevention of warts and cancers is not the only reason to consider vaccination in your son. Vaccinating young boys and men will also likely protect women from infection and future cancer risks, as vaccinated young men will be less likely to pass on HPV to their female partners.

Is the HPV Vaccine Safe?

Gardasil licensed by the FDA as safe and effective, and well over 46 million doses of the vaccine have been distributed in the United States alone. The CDC and FDA have continued to monitor HPV vaccine safety since Gardasil was first approved in 2006. Testing in thousands of people around the world showed no serious side effects of vaccination. Mild side effects include pain at injection site, fever, headache, and nausea. Sitting for 15 minutes can help prevent dizziness or fainting commonly associated with injections or medical procedures.

Vaccination Recommendations for Men 22-26

Gardasil is also currently approved for use in men ages 22-26 – a “permissive” recommendation that differs from females of the same age group. Permissive use means that the vaccine is recommended, but not considered to be of sufficient priority to include on routine vaccination schedules. Vaccines recommended on a permissive basis are less likely to be covered by health insurance. A decision about vaccination for men of this age group should be determined by a conversation with the man and his doctor.

An important exception are gay and bisexual men (or any man who has sex with other men) and men with compromised immune systems (including HIV infection), who are all recommended to receive the vaccine through age 26.

Prepared in partnership with Kyle Scarberry, MD, Class of 2013, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.


Learn more:

For answers to more questions you may have before deciding to vaccinate your child, including how to pay for the vaccine, please refer to the following websites:

Other Articles About HPV


For more information:

Go to the HPV health topic.