HPV vaccine is touted as the most effective way to safeguard young women from cervical cancer. Giving them vaccine at an early age or before they are sexually active can prepare the body better to fight the HPV (human papillomavirus) virus. However, the benefits of HPV vaccine also extend to men as it can safeguard them from different kinds of cancer like neck and also head, penile, anal, and oropharyngeal malignancies. HPV vaccine can protect against a range of cancers and other intimate health issues like genital warts. (Also read | Cervical Cancer Awareness Month: 8 benefits of HPV vaccine beyond cervical cancer prevention)
Cervical cancer is the second leading cause of death in women after breast cancer and out of 96,922 women in India that are diagnosed with cervical cancer, 60,078 lose their lives due to the disease every year, as per National Institutes of Health. However, cervical cancer is very much preventable and HPV vaccine must be administrated in girls and boys aged 9–26. Vaccine is most effective when given at ages 11–12.
Many benefits of HPV vaccine and why it’s equally important for men
“Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a pervasive and potentially harmful virus that can affect both men and women. The HPV vaccine stands as a powerful defence against this common infection, offering a range of benefits beyond the prevention of cervical cancer. The HPV virus can cause various types of cancers and health issues in both genders and is not restricted to safeguarding women against only cervical cancers. It is important to understand the adverse effects of not taking the vaccine for both genders, as otherwise boys remain susceptible to HPV infections, leading to serious health concerns and various types of cancers,” says Dr Preety Aggarwal,Medical Director (Gurgaon) – Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Here are the top five reasons why getting the HPV vaccine is equally important for both genders, as shared by Dr Preety Aggarwal:
1. HPV vaccine protects both genders against a range of cancers
HPV vaccine does much more than protecting women against cervical cancer, it protects both genders against various types of cancers. While cervical cancer is a well-known consequence of HPV infection in women, it’s equally important to recognize that HPV is a leading cause of cancers in men as well. It prevents cancers of the neck and head in both genders. The vaccine significantly reduces the risk of cancers affecting men, including penile, anal, and oropharyngeal cancers. By getting vaccinated, men contribute to their overall health and well-being, protecting themselves from potentially severe and life-threatening conditions.
2. Protection against multiple strains
The HPV vaccine guards against the most common and high-risk HPV strains, providing comprehensive protection. This is crucial because HPV is not a single virus but a family of viruses with various strains, some of which are linked to cancers and others to genital warts. By getting vaccinated, individuals can fortify their immune system against multiple HPV strains, reducing the risk of associated diseases.
3. Safeguarding sexual and reproductive health
HPV is primarily transmitted through sexual activity, making the vaccine an essential tool in safeguarding sexual and reproductive health. By preventing HPV infection, individuals reduce the risk of developing related health issues, such as genital warts and certain cancers. This not only contributes to personal well-being but also helps promote healthier relationships and communities.
4. Community immunity and herd protection
Vaccination against HPV not only benefits the individual but also contributes to community immunity. When a significant portion of the population is vaccinated, the spread of the virus is curtailed, offering indirect protection to those who are unvaccinated or more vulnerable. This concept of herd protection is particularly important for individuals who may not be eligible for vaccination due to specific health conditions or age.
5. Long-lasting benefits and cost savings
The HPV vaccine is a preventive measure with long-lasting benefits. By receiving the recommended doses, individuals can establish durable protection against HPV-related diseases, providing peace of mind for years to come. Moreover, preventing HPV-related cancers through vaccination translates into substantial cost savings for both individuals and healthcare systems. The economic burden associated with treating HPV-related diseases is significantly reduced when prevention takes precedence.
In conclusion, it is important for men and women to prioritize HPV vaccination as its protective effects extend to both genders. Getting the HPV vaccine is a proactive step towards a healthier future for everyone.
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