If you thought the controversy over giving the HPV vaccine to girls was heated, just wait for the fight about the boys.
A government health panel is expected to vote soon on whether to recommend vaccinating boys and young men against the human papillomavirus. Since 2006, the vaccine has been advised in girls and young women ages 9 to 26 to prevent cervical cancer and genital warts — though only about a third of those eligible actually have received it.
From the start, arguments about whether to inoculate males against HPV have centered mainly on the benefits for women — and the desire to stop men from transmitting the most common sexually spread infection. The vaccine is approved, but not recommended, to prevent genital warts in males.
But now, growing evidence shows that the vaccine also may prevent anal cancer, particularly in the high-risk groups of homosexual and bisexual men, who are about 20 times more likely than heterosexuals to develop the disease.
Next week, an advisory panel to the federal Food and Drug Administration will consider whether to recommend expanding use of the vaccine based on clinical data that show it could be up to 78 percent effective in preventing anal lesions and anal cancer in men who have sex with men.