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HPV vaccine shows success in gay, bisexual men

The number of new anal cancer cases has been rising annually, with the risk of being diagnosed with anal cancer during one’s lifetime about 1 in 500. The risk is also higher in people with certain risk factors for anal cancer – e.g. among gay and bisexual men, particularly those living with HIV.

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HPV vaccine helps.

There is a 70% reduction in one type of human papillomavirus (HPV) in gay and bisexual men, noted after the implementation of a school-based HPV vaccination program in Australia.

This is according to a study by Monash University and Alfred Health – “Prevalence of human papillomavirus in young men who have sex with men after the implementation of gender-neutral HPV vaccination: a repeated cross-sectional study” by Eric Chow, et al – that appeared in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

For this study, the researchers recruited 400 gay and bisexual men with a median age of 19 years from sexual health clinics and the community in Melbourne, Australia. The results – specifically – compared the HYPER1 group of 200 gay/bisexual men pre-vaccination in 2010-2012, and the HYPER2 group of 200 gay/bisexual men post-vaccination in 2017-2018.

As FYI: Australia is one of the few countries that have vaccination programs for HPV for both boys and girls. The vaccine covers four genotypes: 6/11/16/18. Genotypes 6/11 cause about 90% of the genital wart cases, and genotypes 16/18 cause about 70% of cervical and anal cancers.

The study found that there was a significant reduction in all four vaccine-preventable genotypes in gay/bisexual men aged 16-20 years following the introduction of the vaccine for boys in 2013. Specifically, there was a reduction in anal quadrivalent genotypes from 28% down to 7.3%, and penile quadrivalent genotypes also lowered in the post-vaccination group to 6.1% from 11.9%.

According to the American Cancer Society, the number of new anal cancer cases has been rising annually, with the risk of being diagnosed with anal cancer during one’s lifetime about 1 in 500. The risk is also higher in people with certain risk factors for anal cancer – e.g. among gay and bisexual men, particularly those living with HIV. On the latter, a meta-analysis estimated the incidence of anal cancer to be 45.9 per 100,000 among HIV-positive men who have sex with men (MSM).

Results from the HYPER2 study suggest that male vaccination may lead to a potential reduction in anal cancer among gay and bisexual men, similar to the reduction in cervical cancer among women after the HPV vaccination.

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