Women’s health issues are intrinsically tied to men’s health. This is evident in recent vaccine recommendations.
Vaccination rates have slowly been increasing for the two vaccines that protect young people against infection by certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States.1 The vaccines were originally recommended only for girls and young women and were subsequently broadened to include the recommendations for boys and young men. This factsheet discusses HPV and related cancers, use of the HPV vaccines for both females and males, and insurance coverage and access to the vaccines.
HPV and Cancer
There are more than 100 strains of HPV, and while most cases of HPV infection usually resolve on their own, there are more than 40 strains that can cause cancer. Overall, HPV is related to almost 100% of cervical cancer cases.2 Cervical cancer is the main concern with HPV, but the disease is also known to cause oral, anal, vulvar, vaginal and penile cancers, as well as genital warts.1
HPV infection in the U.S. is widespread; there are more than 6 million new infections annually, and it is estimated that 50% of sexually active men and women will get HPV at some point in their lives.3 The highest rates are seen among women ages 20-24, with a prevalence rate of 45%.4
In the U.S., it is estimated that over 12,000 new cases and more than 4,000 deaths from cervical cancer will occur in 2013.5 In 2008, over 529,000 new cases of cervical cancer and 275,000 deaths attributed to cervical cancer occurred worldwide, with 86% of the cases in developing countries.6
Cervical cancer is usually treatable, especially when detected early; regular screening with Pap tests is critical for early detection. Guidelines by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommend that women ages 21 to 65 receive a Pap test once every three years.7
Despite widespread availability of pap testing, disparities in cervical cancer incidence, screening, and mortality rates by race and insurance status persist. African-American women have the highest mortality rates of the disease (Figure 1).5, 8
However, African American women also have the highest rates of recent pap testing to screen for the disease (81%, compared to 77% of White women and 70% of Asian women).9 Limited access to treatment and early detection, as well as cost, lack of physician referral, and cultural barriers may account for some of these disparities.10
Men are at a much lower risk than women for developing an HPV related cancer and suffer from less than 25% of reported cases.11