Yes, it is. You may have heard of the HPV or Gardasil vaccine for young women to prevent cervical cancer, but young men should get it too!
The HPV vaccine is a series of 3 injections over a 6-month period. Ideally it should be given before a person ever has sex, but it is recommended for men from age 11 through 21 years regardless of sexual activity, and through age 26 years for men who have sex with men and men who are immunocompromised (including those who are HIV positive).
Why should men get vaccinated? Vaccination helps to:
- Prevent genital warts
- Prevent penile, throat, and anal cancers caused by HPV
- Prevent spread of HPV to future partners
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). The virus is spread through anal, vaginal, or oral sex, and can even be spread through close skin contact during sexual activity. A person doesn’t have to have signs and symptoms to spread the virus.
All sexually active people are at risk for HPV.
Almost all sexually active people get infected with HPV at some point in their lives. Most people will clear the infection without more serious issues. However, if an infection does not go away on its own, symptoms may develop months or even years later.
If HPV does not go away on its own, it can cause genital warts and some types of cancer.
Warning symptoms: new or unusual warts, growths, lumps, or sores on the penis, scrotum, anus, mouth, or throat.
Genital warts usually appear as a small bump or group of bumps around the penis or anus. They may be small or large, raised or flat, or shaped like a cauliflower. The warts may stay the same or grow in size or number. They can come back even after treatment but warts caused by HPV do not lead to cancer.
HPV infection is not cancer, but it can change the body in ways that lead to cancer. Cervical cancer can occur in women, penile cancer in men, and anal cancer in both women and men. Cancer at the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (oropharyngeal cancer), is also a concern for both men and women. All of these cancers can be caused by HPV infections that do not go away.
Figure: Average Number of New HPV-Associated Cancers Overall, and by Sex, in the United States from 2005-2009
HPV-related cancers are not common in men, but certain men are more susceptible:
- Men with weak immune systems (including those with HIV) who get infected with HPV are more likely to have complications
- Men who receive anal sex are more likely to get anal HPV and develop anal cancer
There is no approved test for HPV in men at this time, and there is no specific treatment. Genital warts can be treated by healthcare providers and HPV-related cancers are more treatable when diagnosed and treated early.
The HPV vaccine lowers the risk of getting HPV and HPV-related diseases.
Using condoms for every sexual encounter lowers the chance of getting all STIs, including HPV.
If nothing else, consider protecting your future sexual partner(s) from HPV by getting vaccinated!
The HPV vaccine is available at Campus Health Services.
For more information on HPV visit cdc.gov/hpv.