Papillomavirus infections are almost always transmitted through sexual contact, with or without penetration. The majority of young people, girls or boys, therefore catch one or other of the viruses of this family at the beginning of their sexual life. Unlike other microbes (chlamydia or gonococcus, for example), these viruses are eliminated 9 times out of 10 without leaving a trace. But for the remaining 10%, the complications are far from negligible since they are responsible for cancer. The most common being cervical cancer, HPV vaccination has been recommended for young girls since 2006.
the condom is not enough to protect against HPV infections. It is a great way to prevent sexually transmitted infections, but it is less effective against HPV. “These are also present on the skin and conveyed by caresses or sextoys,” says Dr. Péré.
What diseases can HPVs cause in men?
The HPV that we say at low risk of cancer can cause genital warts, that is, annoying and contagious warts, or voice disorders (hoarseness, broken voice, extinction).
The High risk HPV can cause mouth cancers (language base in particular), throat (pharynx and larynx), anus and penis.
“Men have a more particular sensitivity to HPV infection, their natural immunity being probably less effective”, underlines Dr. Hélène Péré.
1,750 new cases of HPV male cancers are thus induced each year in France, including around 1,000 from the oropharynx (Haute Autorité de Santé, December 2019).
Precancerous lesions that cannot be detected in humans
Another difficulty encountered with boy’s HPV infections : precancerous lesions cannot be detected, like what is done for the female cervix with smear. HPV infections are asymptomatic and when viruses persist, the first lesions occur years after infection.
“The possibilities of screening for these cancers are obviously unequal, since there is no screening for cancers of the anus, penis or ENT unlike cervical cancers”, regrets Professor Philippe Descamps.
Is the HPV vaccine effective?
It effectively prevents anogenital warts and the precancerous lesions of the anus. As in young girls, its effectiveness is maximum if the vaccination is done before the onset of sex.
“With regard to specifically male cancers, theAustralia which vaccinates almost all boys since 2013 is a pleasing example: HPV infections have practically disappeared there, ”observes Professor Descamps. These infections decreased by 70% in Denmark or Sweden which encouraged vaccination. Viruses circulate much less, which protects girls and boys: we get a group immunity, direct because one is vaccinated, and indirect, since the virus is less present. The vaccination rate in France is far too low (barely 30% of young girls are vaccinated) to decrease the transmission of papillomaviruses.
Is HPV vaccination safe? What risks?
420 million doses have been distributed worldwide and no “safety signal” has been notified. The cases of autoimmune disease, multiple sclerosis in particular, are not more numerous whether or not one has been vaccinated. The increased risk of neurological syndrome (from Guillain Barre) is not confirmed by recent international clinical studies.
At what age should your son be vaccinated? How much does it cost ?
Vaccination with the nonavalent vaccine (Gardasil 9) is reimbursed. It is indicated for boys and girls aged 11 to 14 completed (2 doses spaced 6 months apart), before the first sexual encounters. Catch-up is possible from 15 to 19 years old (3 doses at 0, 2 and 6 months).