Things I am passionate about. Injustice, stupidity, intolerance, bigotry and small-mindedness. Oh and there might just be some humor to offset the whole thing.

HPV causing more oral cancer in men

Posted by morganwrites on February 15, 2008

ATLANTA – (AP) – The sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer in women is poised to become one of the leading causes of oral cancer in men, according to a new study.The HPV virus now causes as many cancers of the upper throat as tobacco and alcohol, probably due both to an increase in oral sex and the decline in smoking, researchers say.The only available vaccine against HPV, made by Merck & Co. Inc., is currently given only to girls and young women. But Merck plans this year to ask government permission to offer the shot to boys.

Experts say a primary reason for male vaccinations would be to prevent men from spreading the virus and help reduce the nearly 12,000 cases of cervical cancer diagnosed in U.S. women each year. But the new study should add to the argument that there may be a direct benefit for men, too.

“We need to start having a discussion about those cancers other than cervical cancer that may be affected in a positive way by the vaccine,” said study co-author Dr. Maura Gillison of Johns Hopkins University.

The study was published Friday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the leading cause of cervical cancer in women. It also can cause genital warts, penile and anal cancer — risks for males that generally don’t get the same attention as cervical cancer.

Previous research by Gillison and others established HPV as a primary cause of the estimated 5,600 cancers that occur each year in the tonsils, lower tongue and upper throat. It’s also been known that the virus’ role in such cancers has been rising.

The new study looked at more than 30 years of National Cancer Institute data on oral cancers. Researchers categorized about 46,000 cases, using a formula to divide them into those caused by HPV and those not connected to the virus.

They concluded the incidence rates for HPV-related oral cancers rose steadily in men from 1973 to 2004, becoming about as common as those from tobacco and alcohol.

The good news is that survival rates for the cancer are also increasing. That’s because tumors caused by HPV respond better to chemotherapy and radiation, Gillison said.

“If current trends continue, within the next 10 years there may be more oral cancers in the United States caused by HPV than tobacco or alcohol,” Gillison said.

Studies suggest oral sex is associated with HPV-related oral cancers, but a cause-effect relationship has not been proved. Other researchers have suggested that even unwashed hands can spread it to the mouth as well.

Gillison pointed toward sex as an explanation for the increase in male upper throat cancers. However, HPV-related upper throat cancers declined significantly in women from 1973 to 2004.

Merck’s vaccine, approved for girls in 2006, is a three-dose series priced at about $360. It is designed to protect against four types of HPV, including one associated with oral cancer.

Merck has been testing the vaccine in an international study, but it is focused on anal and penile cancer and genital warts, not oral cancers, said Kelley Dougherty, a Merck spokeswoman.

“We are continuing to consider additional areas of study that focus on both female and male HPV diseases and cancers,” Dougherty said.

Merck officials praised Gillison’s research, saying it will elevate the importance of HPV-related oral cancers.

Government officials and the American Cancer Society say they don’t know yet whether Merck’s vaccine will be successful at preventing disease in men. No data from the company’s study are available yet.

Indeed, it’s not clear yet that the vaccine even prevents the HPV infection in males, let alone cancer or any other illness, said Debbie Saslow of the American Cancer Society.

Merck plans to seek U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for the vaccine in men later this year, meaning a government decision would be likely in 2009.

I’ve nothing to say. You make the comments.


4 Responses to “HPV causing more oral cancer in men”

  1. JillianC said

    My name is Jillian and I work for the PR firm that represents OralCDx. HPV-related oral cancer is on the rise, but did you know that you can PREVENT oral cancer? There is a test that identifies abnormal cells before they become cancerous, therefore preventing oral cancer from ever developing. The BrushTest or computer-assisted brush biopsy, manufactured by OralCDx Laboratories, is a small brush that dental professionals use to test tiny white or red spots that are commonly found in a person’s mouth during a routine oral exam. It is one of two tests that can actually detect oral cancer (the other is a scalpel biopsy), and is better at detecting cancer than mammography, the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test or the Pap smear. The sensitivity and specificity to detect precancers and cancers with OralCDx is very high according to numerous studies published in peer-reviewed journals. The test is so effective that the American Dental Association has partnered with OralCDx to educate dentists and patients about its lifesaving potential: When an oral spot found by the BrushTest contains precancerous cells, they are typically still harmless for several more years. During this time the precancerous spot can be removed and oral cancer prevented. For more information visit

  2. Jillian – Thank you so much for the informative comment. I pray that all who read this story will take advantage of the preventative steps you mentioned.
    Thanks again.

  3. Michael T said

    Now that Merck has had its vaccine blocked in women they are moving to men.. great marketing move. Lets see. they failed to tell women that no one knows how long the HPV vaccine lasts, that it takes up to 40 years between getting it and the age when you get cervical cancer, that the vast majority of women who die from cervical cancer are first generation immigrants and those with poor health insurance. the very same women who won’t get the HPV vaccine. Oh and that when the state mandates a vaccine you can’t sue the manufacturer down the line.

    At a cost of $300 per dose and 3 doses we are going to spend literally billions of dollars and there will be no decrease in the rate of cervical cancer. You sill will need to get pap smears and you will never know if the vaccine is still working or not . No one has studied if for more then a year. Now we can give it to all of the men having oral sex with one another. Perhaps that is a good market compared to young pre-adolescent girls. It took them 30 years to take DES off the market after the found out that millions of women had been put at higher risk of vaginal cancer and this is just more of the same. A way for a drug company to scare parents into giving their kids yet another shot that they don’t need. (I am not anti vaccine nor anti sex ed) but I am anti drug company scare tactics using a paid researcher.

    • Michael T – The scary thing is that Merck and others are, for now, untouchable – especially since they ‘own’ the CDC, NIH, etc. Thanks for the intelligent comment.

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