The human papilloma vaccine, which is intended to prevent cervical cancer, is now believed by cancer doctors to prevent other cancers in both men and women.
Recent research has linked the HPV virus to a variety of cancers in the head and neck as well as in the urinary-genital tract, Dr. Glenn Bauman, chairman of oncology at the University of Western Ontario faculty of medicine, told the Ottawa Citizen.
The vaccine, which is usually administered to girls as they enter their teenage years, is not offered to boys at the moment. Some experts have argued that both sexes need to be vaccinated as a means of slowing the spread of papilloma.
As much as 70 percent of reported cervical cancers are believed to be caused by the human papilloma virus. DNA from the common virus has been determined by recent studies to reside within cancer tumors.
“I think the tip of the iceberg is this whole HPV connection with cancer,” Bauman said. “What’s interesting is that we’re finding — and we’ve known this for a while, but we’re beginning to appreciate it — that HPV plays a role in other ‘mucosal’ cancers.”
“Just the fact that a viral infection is responsible for some fairly significant cancers in people, and that we have a vaccine against it — I think that’s novel and that represents a new direction,” Bauman said.