October 19, 2016 • read

HPV not just a threat to women: mouth and throat cancers rising sharply in men

Cancers of the mouth and throat caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) are rising dramatically among Canadian men and are poised to surpass the rate of cervical cancer in females, according to a special report released by the Canadian Cancer Society. The report, Canadian Cancer Statistics 2016, was produced in partnership with the Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada.

In 2016, nearly 4,400 Canadians will be diagnosed with an HPV cancer and about 1,200 Canadians will die from an HPV cancer. The incidence of HPV mouth and throat cancers increased a dramatic 56% in males and 17% in females between 1992 and 2012. Mouth and throat cancers now represent about one-third of all HPV cancers in Canada.

“This report shows us for the first time how many Canadians are being affected by HPV cancers,” says Dr Robert Nuttall, Assistant Director, Health Policy, Canadian Cancer Society. “These cancers are largely preventable through vaccination. In the moment it takes to vaccinate your children, you are helping to protect them from cancer in the future.”

More about HPV

Most sexually active people will have an HPV infection at some point during their lifetime, making it the most common sexually transmitted disease in Canada and the world. Most people never even know they have it, as most infections clear within 2 years and cause no physical symptoms. However, some infections are serious and can lead to cancer. There are more than 100 different types of HPV, and around 25 types are known or suspected to cause cancer.

While it’s been known for decades that HPV causes cervical cancer, many people don’t realize that it causes these other types of cancer too, and that it affects males as well as females. HPV causes 80%–90% of anal cancers and 40%–50% of penile cancers.

“The word eradicate has never been used in the context of a cancer,” says Dr Eduardo Franco, world-renowned HPV expert and chairman of the department of oncology at McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine. “In order to reach this goal, it is imperative that Canadians embrace the new public health advances that are significantly improving cancer control and prevention.”

Will Dove, 51, a web developer in Calgary, had just returned from vacation with his family in Mexico this spring when he began to experience pain and pressure in one ear. The initial diagnosis was an ear infection, but it turned out to be throat cancer caused by an HPV infection. The self-described “fitness nut” and body builder lost 30 pounds in just 5 weeks while undergoing treatment. “Imagine if we had a vaccine for cancer,” says the father of 2 teens. “For HPV cancers, we do. If we vaccinate our kids, we can help make these cancers nothing more than a grim memory.”

Most people will never know they have been infected because HPV often doesn’t cause any symptoms. This means you can get HPV and pass it along without ever knowing it. While an HPV infection can’t be treated, what it causes can. Genital warts caused by low-risk types of HPV can appear weeks or months after skin-to-skin sexual contact with an infected person. There are treatments for genital warts.

More about HPV vaccinations

There are 3 types of vaccines to protect against HPV infection in Canada – Cervarix, Gardasil and Gardasil 9. HPV vaccines do not treat HPV infections you already have or treat diseases or cancers associated with HPV. The vaccines are most effective when administered before the onset of sexual activity when the probability of prior infection is low, which is why publicly funded programs are for school-aged children. In addition, the immune system responds better when vaccination is given at a young age.

In Canada, about one-third of HPV-associated cancers occur in males. Vaccine is available for boys and young men between the ages of 9 and 26 to prevent anal cancer, its precancer and anogenital warts.

All provinces and territories in Canada offer the HPV vaccine to girls, starting between Grades 4 and 7. The vaccine is also currently available to boys in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Alberta. Guys should talk to to their health care provider about where to get their sons, daughters and themselves vaccinated.

Backgrounder: HPV

More information about HPV and HPV vaccines.
Read more: http://www.cancer.ca/en/about-us/for-media/media-releases/national/2016/canadian-cancer-statistics-2016/?region=bc#ixzz4NYZCCDT7


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