Fort Worth, Texas,
13:06 PM

Study Finds 1 in 9 Males Infected with Oral HPV

Vaccine available to prevent various forms of cancer

A new study shows an alarming number of American men have oral cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV).

The study, published in the journal of Annals of Internal Medicine, states 11 million (one in nine) U.S. males were found to have oral HPV. The research was done between the years 2011 and 2014.

While most people with HPV don’t develop symptoms or health problems, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says HPV causes 30,700 cancers in men and women, inlcuding 6,479 cancers of the back of throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils in both men and women.

Jason Terk, M.D., a Cook Children's pediatrician in Keller, says vaccination rates for HPV are comparatively lower than other adolescent vaccines primarily because parents don’t perceive that their teens' physicians strongly recommend it.

Across the country, the number of children who receive the HPV vaccine is very low compared to other vaccines they are scheduled to receive at the same time. This is despite the fact that meningitis and pertussis are much less common than HPV.

By the year 2020, experts believe head and neck cancer will surpass cervical cancer as the most common cancer caused by HPV.

HPV is so common, in fact, that the journal JAMA Oncology reported in January that nearly half of American men may have an HPV infection known to cause cancer. This is based on a study of 1,868 men, ages 18 to 59. Among the group, only 10.7 percent were vaccinated against HPV while 45 percent reported having genital HPV.

The recent studies show that work still needs to be done to raise awareness about the dangers of HPV and how to prevent an infection with the highly effective HPV vaccine.

“One of the major problems with HPV is that it may be 20 or 30 years before a person develops cancer due to an infection that happens in the teen years,” Dr. Terk said. “Unfortunately, waiting until HPV is contracted is not an option. We have to make every effort to provide our patients the HPV vaccine so we can put an end to the thousands of teens who move through Cook Children’s without ever gaining this indispensable protection.”

That’s the good news that Dr. Terk wants parents to know: HPV can be prevented.

The FDA has approved vaccines that prevent the HPV strains that are associated with cancers of the cervix and head and neck. Boys and girls can begin the vaccination process as early as age 9.

"Only 34 percent of adolescents in the U.S. have received the HPV vaccine series. Here in Texas, that number drops to 33 percent," said Jason Terk, M.D., a pediatrician at Cook Children’s. "This is a relevant issue for all parents. We have a vaccine that can prevent cancer. Parents should start the vaccination process as soon as their pediatrician recommends. "


Get to know Jason Terk, M.D.

Dr. Terk is a Cook Children's pediatrician at Keller Parkway. Dr. Terk earned his medical degree from University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas. He completed his residency in pediatrics at Mayo Graduate School of Medicine (Mayo Clinic) in Rochester, Minnesota. His interests include public policy advocacy for children's health issues, focusing primarily on vaccines. Dr. Terk is board-certified in pediatrics. New and exisiting Cook Children's Keller pediatrician office patients can make an appointment by calling 817-968-1200 or through the button below to access Cook Children's Patient Portal. 

Comments 1 - 3 (3)
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Jason Terk, M.D.
Thank you Jennifer. Not a dumb question. Thank you for the opportunity to clarify. While HPV is a sexually transmitted infection, it would be a mistake to think of it in the same context as other STI’s you may be familiar with like syphilis, gonorrhea, genital herpes, chlamydia, etc. Eighty percent of our children will become infected with the cancer-causing types of HPV, because HPV is so much more easily transmitted than those other infections. In the baseball analogy of sex, you pretty much need to hit a triple or a homerun to be at risk for most STI’s. But, HPV is all over first and second base! So, if you can imagine your kid making out with someone before they get married, they are at risk for HPV infection. You have to assume that with an 80% risk of infection, they will become infected without the protection of the vaccine.
Terry Ray
Great Job Jason, what you are telling people is so important! I just wish more people would listen. Are Junior High & High Schools telling their students?
Maybe a dumb question, but I was under the impression that HPV is sexually transmitted. If that is the case, wouldn't it be better to talk to kids about safe sex instead of giving them a vaccine that has dangerous risks just like any other drug?