HPV vaccination: Girls AND Boys need it!

Currently in the state of Virginia, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination is required for all girls entering school. Immunizing boys is not required. Whether a parent opts to immunize their son for HPV is between them and their pediatrician, and many adopt not to. Let me share with you why this is a serious mistake. In the United States, Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) of the head and neck affects the lives of 62,000 people. It is a serious, life-threatening cancer. Every year, 13,000 Americans will die from their diagnosis. Historically, this disease has been linked to tobacco and alcohol use; the more the use, the higher the chance of developing the cancer. But.. in recent years, there has been a disturbing change in the risk factor for this disease: HPV. I’ve noticed over the past years that more and more patients are presenting to my clinic with a new diagnosis of SCC without having ever used tobacco or alcohol. The cause is almost always found to be due to HPV infection.
HPV is a virus that is almost impossible to avoid coming into contact with. Information from the CDC states that 1 in four persons in the Unites States are infected- nearly 80 million people. The true infection rate is probably higher. In reality, I believe that it is one of those infections that is so prevalent, it’s the norm to have been infected rather than not. There are many strains of HPV (over 150!), with strains 16 and 18 being the most commonly associated with head and neck cancer. Of course, not everyone that has been infected will develop SCC. Given how ubiquitous the virus is, the percentage of people that develop cancer from the virus is very, very low. But really, one case of cancer is one too many, especially if it is your son or daughter. The HPV vaccine is given to preteen boys and girls at age 11 or 12. They need to be protected before they get exposed to the virus. The vaccine is given in 3 shots, with the second shot given 1 to 2 months after the first, and the third around 6 months after the first. The vaccine can be given to older children, teens and adults, but it is generally not recommended to men or women older than 25 years of age. So please take the opportunity to vaccinate your children, both girls AND boys against HPV. And contact your legislative representative! Ask them to make HPV vaccination a requirement in the state of the Virginia for all our children, not just our girls.