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Recent comments made by Michael Douglas concerning the cause of his throat cancer have caused quite a stir, but they have also raised important medical questions.
Doctors routinely recommend that girls be vaccinated for HPV, or human papillomavirus, which is a leading cause of cervical cancer. In addition, some recommend that boys get the vaccine as well to prevent throat and mouth cancers.
Robin Madden, a pediatrician in Silver Spring, Md., says every year about 7,000 men are diagnosed with cancers that are associated with HPV, according to the CDC. The most common types include oropharyngeal cancers, meaning cancers of the throat and mouth, which is what Michael Douglas says he has. Doctors are also learning about and studying the virus's impact on the genital area and other parts of the body, Madden says, and both sexes can get warts from it.
"The recommendation is to give the vaccine to children as young as 9," she says. "The most common age we give it is 11 and it can be given up until the mid-20s."
Madden says around 12,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in women each year. When compared with the 7,000 men who are diagnosed with HPV-related cancers, she says the numbers are close enough to suggest that vaccinating boys against HPV is beneficial, especially since both male and female partners can pass it to others.
"By protecting both boys and girls, we are protecting them and their future partners."
For more on the vaccine and why Americans hesitate to give it to their children:
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