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Closing the Gap
HPV
HPV-related cancer types could be eradicated in the near future if all children receive a vaccine. So why are many young boys not getting the shot?

Imagine this: It’s late summer, and you’ve brought your 11-year-old son to his pediatrician appointment for a yearly physical before the new school year. While sitting in the exam room, the doctor mentions an available vaccine that could prevent your child from developing certain cancer types for the rest of his life. This may sound like a far-off fantasy, the product of wishful thinking – but such a vaccine does exist. In fact, it’s existed for quite some time.


For more information on the Gardasil vaccine, visit gardasil9.com or cdc.gov/vaccinesafety.


For more information on the Gardasil vaccine, visit gardasil9.com or cdc.gov/vaccinesafety.


CHANGING THE COURSE

“Too many people for too long focused on the sex aspect of HPV, and not the fact that this vaccine protects their children from preventable cancers,” says Jason Mendelsohn, board member for Head and Neck Cancer Alliance and stage IV HPV-related tonsil cancer survivor. Mendelsohn was diagnosed at 44 years old and his doctors believed that he was exposed to HPV in college more than 20 years prior. While now cancer free, Mendelsohn describes the treatment he had to endure – seven weeks of chemotherapy, radiation, a feeding tube and third-degree throat burns – as “brutal.”

Most oncogenic HPV types can be eliminated only if both girls and boys are vaccinated, strengthening the case even more for equal promotion in all genders receiving HPV vaccines if possible.

He recalls recording videos for his children telling them goodbye. “There’s nothing more difficult than that; it felt like my obligation to share my story now and hopefully prevent other parents from ever having to make those types of videos for their kids by helping to increase HPV vaccination rates for both girls and boys,” Mendelsohn says.

Mendelsohn’s hope could become a reality one day. Recently, a study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases in March 2020 determined that most oncogenic HPV types can be eliminated only if both girls and boys are vaccinated, strengthening the case even more for equal promotion in all genders receiving HPV vaccines if possible.

In order to do so, barriers to access of HPV vaccination need to be examined. Regulations for receiving the vaccine vary widely by state and must be addressed. HPV vaccination is most effective when received prior to the start of sexual activity and, thereby, exposure to HPV. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, two states and D.C. require HPV vaccination by law for school entry. However, “D.C. and Virginia require the HPV vaccine for girls to enter the sixth grade, but allow parents to opt out due to medical, moral or religious opposition.” Only one state, Rhode Island, requires all seventh-grade students to receive the vaccine.

The CDC suggests that state and local health departments continue assessing which strategies are effective and which are not when it comes to HPV vaccination. It also encourages more widely accessible public communication campaigns to be established.

Similarly, cancer organizations, like Head and Neck Cancer Alliance, are working to increase awareness of the link between HPV and cancer, especially for men, and urge parents to consider vaccinating their children in the name of cancer prevention. 

“Every single patient or survivor I’ve spoken to would have been overjoyed to get the vaccine had it been available when we were young,” writes cancer researcher Stewart Lyman, Ph.D. on the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance’s website. “We all know deep inside us that preventing cancer is way better than treating it.”


For more information on the Gardasil vaccine, visit gardasil9.com or cdc.gov/vaccinesafety.


CHANGING THE COURSE

“Too many people for too long focused on the sex aspect of HPV, and not the fact that this vaccine protects their children from preventable cancers,” says Jason Mendelsohn, board member for Head and Neck Cancer Alliance and stage IV HPV-related tonsil cancer survivor. Mendelsohn was diagnosed at 44 years old and his doctors believed that he was exposed to HPV in college more than 20 years prior. While now cancer free, Mendelsohn describes the treatment he had to endure – seven weeks of chemotherapy, radiation, a feeding tube and third-degree throat burns – as “brutal.”

Most oncogenic HPV types can be eliminated only if both girls and boys are vaccinated, strengthening the case even more for equal promotion in all genders receiving HPV vaccines if possible.

He recalls recording videos for his children telling them goodbye. “There’s nothing more difficult than that; it felt like my obligation to share my story now and hopefully prevent other parents from ever having to make those types of videos for their kids by helping to increase HPV vaccination rates for both girls and boys,” Mendelsohn says.

Mendelsohn’s hope could become a reality one day. Recently, a study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases in March 2020 determined that most oncogenic HPV types can be eliminated only if both girls and boys are vaccinated, strengthening the case even more for equal promotion in all genders receiving HPV vaccines if possible.

In order to do so, barriers to access of HPV vaccination need to be examined. Regulations for receiving the vaccine vary widely by state and must be addressed. HPV vaccination is most effective when received prior to the start of sexual activity and, thereby, exposure to HPV. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, two states and D.C. require HPV vaccination by law for school entry. However, “D.C. and Virginia require the HPV vaccine for girls to enter the sixth grade, but allow parents to opt out due to medical, moral or religious opposition.” Only one state, Rhode Island, requires all seventh-grade students to receive the vaccine.

The CDC suggests that state and local health departments continue assessing which strategies are effective and which are not when it comes to HPV vaccination. It also encourages more widely accessible public communication campaigns to be established.

Similarly, cancer organizations, like Head and Neck Cancer Alliance, are working to increase awareness of the link between HPV and cancer, especially for men, and urge parents to consider vaccinating their children in the name of cancer prevention. 

“Every single patient or survivor I’ve spoken to would have been overjoyed to get the vaccine had it been available when we were young,” writes cancer researcher Stewart Lyman, Ph.D. on the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance’s website. “We all know deep inside us that preventing cancer is way better than treating it.”


For more information on the Gardasil vaccine, visit gardasil9.com or cdc.gov/vaccinesafety.


GENDER GAP

In 2009, the FDA approved Gardasil for males – and then, in 2014, approved the newer Gardasil 9 with its even greater coverage of five more HPV types (31, 33, 45, 52 and 58) – to protect against genital warts and anal and penile cancer caused by HPV. However, HPV vaccination continued to be marketed primarily for the female population, despite the CDC reporting that nearly all sexually active people will get HPV at some point in their lives and the fact that oropharyngeal (back of the throat) cancer has now surpassed cervical cancer as the most common type of HPV-related cancer. Oropharyngeal cancer is five times more common in men than women and is caused by one of the HPV types covered by Gardasil.

The FDA recently expanded approval of Gardasil for direct prevention against HPV-related strains of throat and head and neck cancers but due to years of the vaccine being mis- or under-represented by marketing and medical professionals alike, an unfortunate struggle to increase vaccination rates among men may lie ahead.

A 2018 study for the Journal of Adolescent Health conducted by Johns Hopkins gynecologic oncologist Anna Beavis showed that one in five parents do not plan to vaccinate their sons, compared to a one in 10 parents of daughters. Beavis concluded that physician communication is part of the issue, discovering that some parents do not push for their child to receive HPV-preventative vaccines due in part to absence of physician recommendation (17 percent) and a lack of knowledge about HPV (14 percent).

These numbers may seem small, but HPV vaccination rates are still far below the Healthy People 2020 target of 80 percent. In 2017, the CDC reported that coverage of greater than one dose of an HPV vaccine was 65.5 percent among adolescents ages 13 through 17. Among males, only 48.7 percent were fully vaccinated compared to 53.7 percent of girls.


CHANGING THE COURSE

“Too many people for too long focused on the sex aspect of HPV, and not the fact that this vaccine protects their children from preventable cancers,” says Jason Mendelsohn, board member for Head and Neck Cancer Alliance and stage IV HPV-related tonsil cancer survivor. Mendelsohn was diagnosed at 44 years old and his doctors believed that he was exposed to HPV in college more than 20 years prior. While now cancer free, Mendelsohn describes the treatment he had to endure – seven weeks of chemotherapy, radiation, a feeding tube and third-degree throat burns – as “brutal.”

Most oncogenic HPV types can be eliminated only if both girls and boys are vaccinated, strengthening the case even more for equal promotion in all genders receiving HPV vaccines if possible.

He recalls recording videos for his children telling them goodbye. “There’s nothing more difficult than that; it felt like my obligation to share my story now and hopefully prevent other parents from ever having to make those types of videos for their kids by helping to increase HPV vaccination rates for both girls and boys,” Mendelsohn says.

Mendelsohn’s hope could become a reality one day. Recently, a study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases in March 2020 determined that most oncogenic HPV types can be eliminated only if both girls and boys are vaccinated, strengthening the case even more for equal promotion in all genders receiving HPV vaccines if possible.

In order to do so, barriers to access of HPV vaccination need to be examined. Regulations for receiving the vaccine vary widely by state and must be addressed. HPV vaccination is most effective when received prior to the start of sexual activity and, thereby, exposure to HPV. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, two states and D.C. require HPV vaccination by law for school entry. However, “D.C. and Virginia require the HPV vaccine for girls to enter the sixth grade, but allow parents to opt out due to medical, moral or religious opposition.” Only one state, Rhode Island, requires all seventh-grade students to receive the vaccine.

The CDC suggests that state and local health departments continue assessing which strategies are effective and which are not when it comes to HPV vaccination. It also encourages more widely accessible public communication campaigns to be established.

Similarly, cancer organizations, like Head and Neck Cancer Alliance, are working to increase awareness of the link between HPV and cancer, especially for men, and urge parents to consider vaccinating their children in the name of cancer prevention. 

“Every single patient or survivor I’ve spoken to would have been overjoyed to get the vaccine had it been available when we were young,” writes cancer researcher Stewart Lyman, Ph.D. on the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance’s website. “We all know deep inside us that preventing cancer is way better than treating it.”


For more information on the Gardasil vaccine, visit gardasil9.com or cdc.gov/vaccinesafety.


GENDER GAP

In 2009, the FDA approved Gardasil for males – and then, in 2014, approved the newer Gardasil 9 with its even greater coverage of five more HPV types (31, 33, 45, 52 and 58) – to protect against genital warts and anal and penile cancer caused by HPV. However, HPV vaccination continued to be marketed primarily for the female population, despite the CDC reporting that nearly all sexually active people will get HPV at some point in their lives and the fact that oropharyngeal (back of the throat) cancer has now surpassed cervical cancer as the most common type of HPV-related cancer. Oropharyngeal cancer is five times more common in men than women and is caused by one of the HPV types covered by Gardasil.

The FDA recently expanded approval of Gardasil for direct prevention against HPV-related strains of throat and head and neck cancers but due to years of the vaccine being mis- or under-represented by marketing and medical professionals alike, an unfortunate struggle to increase vaccination rates among men may lie ahead.

A 2018 study for the Journal of Adolescent Health conducted by Johns Hopkins gynecologic oncologist Anna Beavis showed that one in five parents do not plan to vaccinate their sons, compared to a one in 10 parents of daughters. Beavis concluded that physician communication is part of the issue, discovering that some parents do not push for their child to receive HPV-preventative vaccines due in part to absence of physician recommendation (17 percent) and a lack of knowledge about HPV (14 percent).

These numbers may seem small, but HPV vaccination rates are still far below the Healthy People 2020 target of 80 percent. In 2017, the CDC reported that coverage of greater than one dose of an HPV vaccine was 65.5 percent among adolescents ages 13 through 17. Among males, only 48.7 percent were fully vaccinated compared to 53.7 percent of girls.


CHANGING THE COURSE

“Too many people for too long focused on the sex aspect of HPV, and not the fact that this vaccine protects their children from preventable cancers,” says Jason Mendelsohn, board member for Head and Neck Cancer Alliance and stage IV HPV-related tonsil cancer survivor. Mendelsohn was diagnosed at 44 years old and his doctors believed that he was exposed to HPV in college more than 20 years prior. While now cancer free, Mendelsohn describes the treatment he had to endure – seven weeks of chemotherapy, radiation, a feeding tube and third-degree throat burns – as “brutal.”

Most oncogenic HPV types can be eliminated only if both girls and boys are vaccinated, strengthening the case even more for equal promotion in all genders receiving HPV vaccines if possible.

He recalls recording videos for his children telling them goodbye. “There’s nothing more difficult than that; it felt like my obligation to share my story now and hopefully prevent other parents from ever having to make those types of videos for their kids by helping to increase HPV vaccination rates for both girls and boys,” Mendelsohn says.

Mendelsohn’s hope could become a reality one day. Recently, a study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases in March 2020 determined that most oncogenic HPV types can be eliminated only if both girls and boys are vaccinated, strengthening the case even more for equal promotion in all genders receiving HPV vaccines if possible.

In order to do so, barriers to access of HPV vaccination need to be examined. Regulations for receiving the vaccine vary widely by state and must be addressed. HPV vaccination is most effective when received prior to the start of sexual activity and, thereby, exposure to HPV. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, two states and D.C. require HPV vaccination by law for school entry. However, “D.C. and Virginia require the HPV vaccine for girls to enter the sixth grade, but allow parents to opt out due to medical, moral or religious opposition.” Only one state, Rhode Island, requires all seventh-grade students to receive the vaccine.

The CDC suggests that state and local health departments continue assessing which strategies are effective and which are not when it comes to HPV vaccination. It also encourages more widely accessible public communication campaigns to be established.

Similarly, cancer organizations, like Head and Neck Cancer Alliance, are working to increase awareness of the link between HPV and cancer, especially for men, and urge parents to consider vaccinating their children in the name of cancer prevention. 

“Every single patient or survivor I’ve spoken to would have been overjoyed to get the vaccine had it been available when we were young,” writes cancer researcher Stewart Lyman, Ph.D. on the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance’s website. “We all know deep inside us that preventing cancer is way better than treating it.”


For more information on the Gardasil vaccine, visit gardasil9.com or cdc.gov/vaccinesafety.


THE FIRST SHOT

First-generation Gardasil was first approved by the FDA in June 2006 for females between the ages of nine and 26. Younger generations of women may remember receiving the vaccine in their preteen years through a two- or three-dose series in order to protect against the sexually transmitted infection Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Gardasil covered four different HPV types (6, 11, 16 and 18). A further benefit of Gardasil for women is the highly effective prevention of precancerous cell development that often forms into cervical, vulvar or vaginal cancers.

According to a 2019 study in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, & Prevention, the number of cervical cancer cases – the most common cancer linked to HPV in women – has dropped significantly with the inclusion of Gardasil alongside increasing pap smear rates, making it clear why many doctors encourage parents to vaccinate their young girls. So why aren’t some doctors doing the same for young boys?


GENDER GAP

In 2009, the FDA approved Gardasil for males – and then, in 2014, approved the newer Gardasil 9 with its even greater coverage of five more HPV types (31, 33, 45, 52 and 58) – to protect against genital warts and anal and penile cancer caused by HPV. However, HPV vaccination continued to be marketed primarily for the female population, despite the CDC reporting that nearly all sexually active people will get HPV at some point in their lives and the fact that oropharyngeal (back of the throat) cancer has now surpassed cervical cancer as the most common type of HPV-related cancer. Oropharyngeal cancer is five times more common in men than women and is caused by one of the HPV types covered by Gardasil.

The FDA recently expanded approval of Gardasil for direct prevention against HPV-related strains of throat and head and neck cancers but due to years of the vaccine being mis- or under-represented by marketing and medical professionals alike, an unfortunate struggle to increase vaccination rates among men may lie ahead.

A 2018 study for the Journal of Adolescent Health conducted by Johns Hopkins gynecologic oncologist Anna Beavis showed that one in five parents do not plan to vaccinate their sons, compared to a one in 10 parents of daughters. Beavis concluded that physician communication is part of the issue, discovering that some parents do not push for their child to receive HPV-preventative vaccines due in part to absence of physician recommendation (17 percent) and a lack of knowledge about HPV (14 percent).

These numbers may seem small, but HPV vaccination rates are still far below the Healthy People 2020 target of 80 percent. In 2017, the CDC reported that coverage of greater than one dose of an HPV vaccine was 65.5 percent among adolescents ages 13 through 17. Among males, only 48.7 percent were fully vaccinated compared to 53.7 percent of girls.


CHANGING THE COURSE

“Too many people for too long focused on the sex aspect of HPV, and not the fact that this vaccine protects their children from preventable cancers,” says Jason Mendelsohn, board member for Head and Neck Cancer Alliance and stage IV HPV-related tonsil cancer survivor. Mendelsohn was diagnosed at 44 years old and his doctors believed that he was exposed to HPV in college more than 20 years prior. While now cancer free, Mendelsohn describes the treatment he had to endure – seven weeks of chemotherapy, radiation, a feeding tube and third-degree throat burns – as “brutal.”

Most oncogenic HPV types can be eliminated only if both girls and boys are vaccinated, strengthening the case even more for equal promotion in all genders receiving HPV vaccines if possible.

He recalls recording videos for his children telling them goodbye. “There’s nothing more difficult than that; it felt like my obligation to share my story now and hopefully prevent other parents from ever having to make those types of videos for their kids by helping to increase HPV vaccination rates for both girls and boys,” Mendelsohn says.

Mendelsohn’s hope could become a reality one day. Recently, a study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases in March 2020 determined that most oncogenic HPV types can be eliminated only if both girls and boys are vaccinated, strengthening the case even more for equal promotion in all genders receiving HPV vaccines if possible.

In order to do so, barriers to access of HPV vaccination need to be examined. Regulations for receiving the vaccine vary widely by state and must be addressed. HPV vaccination is most effective when received prior to the start of sexual activity and, thereby, exposure to HPV. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, two states and D.C. require HPV vaccination by law for school entry. However, “D.C. and Virginia require the HPV vaccine for girls to enter the sixth grade, but allow parents to opt out due to medical, moral or religious opposition.” Only one state, Rhode Island, requires all seventh-grade students to receive the vaccine.

The CDC suggests that state and local health departments continue assessing which strategies are effective and which are not when it comes to HPV vaccination. It also encourages more widely accessible public communication campaigns to be established.

Similarly, cancer organizations, like Head and Neck Cancer Alliance, are working to increase awareness of the link between HPV and cancer, especially for men, and urge parents to consider vaccinating their children in the name of cancer prevention. 

“Every single patient or survivor I’ve spoken to would have been overjoyed to get the vaccine had it been available when we were young,” writes cancer researcher Stewart Lyman, Ph.D. on the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance’s website. “We all know deep inside us that preventing cancer is way better than treating it.”


For more information on the Gardasil vaccine, visit gardasil9.com or cdc.gov/vaccinesafety.

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