FRIDAY, July 19 (HealthDay News) -- Young women who are
vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV) not only protect
themselves from cervical cancer, but from throat cancer as well, a
new study suggests.
Many of the increasing number of throat cancers, seen mostly in
developed countries, are caused by HPV infection and the HPV
vaccine might prevent many of these cancers, the researchers
"We found the women who had the HPV vaccine had much less infection than the women who hadn't," said lead researcher Dr. Rolando Herrero, at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France.
"In fact, there was a 90 percent reduction in the prevalence of HPV infection in the women who received the vaccine compared to the women who had not," he said.
HPV infection is strongly associated with cancer of the oral
cavity, Herrero noted. "We think that it is possible that the
prevention of the infection will also lead to the prevention of
these cancers," he explained.
The HPV vaccine has enormous benefit, said Herrero, "because of
the cervical cancer prevention and the anal cancer prevention, and
it can even prevent infections in their sexual partners."
Herrero said boys, too, should be vaccinated to protect them
from oral cancers. Oral cancer is much more prevalent among men
than in women, he pointed out.
A 2011 study in the
Journal of Clinical Oncologyshowed that in the United
States, HPV-positive oral cancers increased from 16 percent of all
oral cancers in the 1980s to 70 percent in the early 2000s.
And according to the Oral Cancer Foundation, nearly 42,000
Americans will be diagnosed with oral and throat cancer in 2013,
and more than 8,000 people will die from these conditions.
HPV-linked throat cancer recently came to the public's attention
when the British newspaper
The Guardianreported that actor Michael Douglas' recent bout
with the disease might have been caused by oral sex.
For the new study, Herrero's team randomly assigned more than
7,400 women aged 18 to 25 to either receive the HPV vaccine or a
vaccine against hepatitis A, as a comparison.
Women in the HPV vaccine group were given Cervarix, one of two
vaccines available for HPV prevention. (The other is Gardasil.)
Four years later, the researchers found the HPV vaccine was 93
percent effective in preventing throat cancer. Among women who
received the HPV vaccine, only one patient showed an oral HPV
infection, compared with 15 in the hepatitis A vaccine group, the
The HPV vaccine costs $130 a dose and because three shots are
required, the total cost is about $390, according to the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are government
programs that can help offset these costs for some patients, the
Because HPV is a sexually transmitted infection, the vaccine is
most effective when given before someone is sexually active. Eighty
percent of people will test positive for HPV infection within five
years of becoming sexually active, said Dr. Marc Siegel, an
associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center, in
New York City.
That's why the CDC recommends the vaccine for adolescent girls
and boys starting at age 11.
The new report was published in the July issue of the online
"The study is really preliminary information," said Dr. Elizabeth Poynor, a gynecologic oncologist and pelvic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City. "It will provide a basis to begin to study how the vaccine will help to protect against throat cancer," she noted.
"It's going to take a while to study those who have been vaccinated to determine that they are protected against throat cancer. This is just the beginning," she said.
"It also really highlights that we need to vaccinate young boys," Poynor added.
For more about HPV and cancer, visit the
U.S. National Cancer Institute.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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