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Papillomavirus: why vaccination is also necessary for boys

In France, vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV) has been recommended for girls aged 11 to 14 since 2007, and for boys of the same age since 2021. Every year in the country, HPV, English abbreviation for “human papillomavirus », are responsible for more than 6,000 new cases of cancer, most often of the cervix – which causes 1,100 deaths per year – of the vulva or vagina, but also of the ENT sphere, the anus or the penis.

One in five men carry oncogenic HPV, potentially causing cancer

A recent study published in The Lancet showed that, at any given time, 31% of men over the age of 15 are infected with an HPV-like virus. More importantly, one in five men (21%) is a carrier of oncogenic HPV, that is to say potentially the cause of cancer. If the main affected are between 25 and 29 years old (35%), all sexually active men are “an important reservoir of genital HPV infections”, continues the study.

“Everywhere” and “extremely transmissible”

“This Lancet meta-analysis confirms empirical and theoretical elements: the HPV virus is found everywhere, it is extremely transmissible”, commented to AFP Emmanuel Ricard, spokesperson for the League against cancer and public health doctor. .

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, quoted by The Lancet, approximately 69,400 cases of cancer in men caused by HPV were recorded in 2018 worldwide. Vaccinating boys therefore has a first obvious benefit: the injection protects them directly against cancers and warts of the anogenital sphere (penis and anus) for which the effectiveness of the vaccine has already been established.

“Probable protection against ENT cancers”

Another expected gain: “Probable protection against ENT cancers, more frequent in men, induced by HPV”, indicates Judith Mueller, medical epidemiologist, professor at the School of Advanced Studies in Public Health (EHESP) and researcher at the ‘Pastor Institute.

Last January, Arthur Sadoun, boss of the French communication group Publicis, broke a taboo on this little-known link by publicly evoking his tonsil cancer, caused by HPV. He had also invited to testify the American actor Michael Douglas, also affected by ENT cancer due to the virus.

“If we want to stop the circulation of the virus, we must vaccinate everyone”

Vaccinating young boys, future sexual partners and spouses, should also reduce the risk of transmission of these viruses. “Boys get infected with girls, girls with boys, and there are girls who get infected with girls and boys with boys”, summarizes Emmanuel Ricard. “At some point, if we want to stop the circulation of the virus, we have to vaccinate everyone”.

An argument retained by Rémy Bellet, an insurance executive, who did not wait for the vaccination campaign planned for college in the 5th grade, to have Paul, his 12-year-old son vaccinated: “My wife had HPV pre-cancerous; on this occasion we learned that the boys were also carriers of the virus and that a vaccine existed”, he says. “It seemed obvious to us that he had to be vaccinated”.

On a practical level, “the gender-neutral vaccination recommendation will be easier to promote”, believes Judith Mueller: “Communication no longer needs to be targeted only at young girls, but only at young people”.

“Vaccinating boys will clearly have an impact on women’s health”

According to Judith Mueller, vaccinating boys is all the more important as the current coverage is today “not yet optimal”. By the end of 2022, 48% of 15-year-old girls and 13% of boys had received at least one dose of the vaccine.

“Vaccinating boys will clearly have an impact on women’s health by accelerating the reduction of the risk of cervical cancer,” says the researcher. “With good family information, future college campaigns have the potential to raise vaccination coverage among girls and boys to a level that will provide significant protection.”

letelegramme Fr Trans

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