Study: HPV Vaccine Can Prevent Most Anal Cancers

| by Michael Allen

Gardasil, the vaccine used to prevent HPV (which can cause cervical cancer in women), has also been shown to prevent most anal cancers in gay men, says a study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Men who were vaccinated against HPV developed 75 percent fewer anal lesions, that lead to cancer, than their counterparts who were given a placebo,

The findings were released one day after a US advisory panel urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend routine vaccinations for boys age 11-12 against HPV.

The disease infects at least half of all sexually active adults and can cause genital warts, but often people with HPV show no symptoms at all.

If caught early, the lesions caused by four particularly virulent strains of the virus can often be removed, preventing cancer from forming. But experts say vaccinating against it before people start to have sex is crucial.

There are nearly 6,000 cases of anal cancer diagnosed annually in the United States, and close to 800 deaths, according to US government health statistics.

HPV is linked to almost 13,000 cases of cervical cancer yearly in US women, 4,300 of which are fatal, and is also suspected to be linked to a rise in head and neck cancers due to its transmission during oral sex.

“What this trial showed is that those cancers and deaths could be prevented,” said lead author Joel Palefsky, a professor at University of California San Francisco and director of UCSF’s Anal Neoplasia Clinic.

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