HPV increasing concern for men

Many TCU men think the virus that causes cervical cancer in women does not have serious effects on them, a Health Center staff member said, but a new study may make them take the potential consequences of the virus more seriously.

A new study links the human papillomavirus, or HPV, to cases of throat and mouth cancers in men, said Burton Schwartz, a Health Center staff physician.

The study, published in The Journal of Clinical Oncology, said cases of throat and tonsil cancers in HPV-positive individuals have increased from 28 percent 30 years ago to almost 68 percent in this decade.

Alcohol and tobacco consumption, which has long been the major cause of oral cancers, is decreasing, according to the study. Instead, an increase in high-risk sexual behaviors, such as oral sex and multiple sex partners, might be a cause.

Schwartz said he has done many programs in male residence halls and fraternities warning them of the risks of HPV.

Cory Henderson, a sophomore political science major and president of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, said Schwartz did such a program for his fraternity last fall. He said more could be done to educate men about the risks of HPV.

“I don’t think it’s made aware to men enough that they could be carriers of the virus,” Henderson said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site, HPV is a name for 100 strains or types of viruses, 30 of which can be sexually transmitted. The effects of the virus can be as serious as life-threatening cervical cancer in women or anal or penile cancer in men, as well as genital warts.

Freshman accounting and finance major Brian Sullivan said that he was shocked there was a link.

“It’s definitely something that needs to be known by my friends,” Sullivan said. “It’s something people need to pay attention to, because it’s definitely a concern.”

Henderson said HPV education is something all groups on campus could work together on.

Schwartz said the Health Center offers the HPV vaccine Gardasil, but the Food and Drug Administration has not approved the vaccine for use in men. The vaccine’s maker, Merck and Co., Inc., is lobbying the FDA to approve it for use in men, but it might not be approved until later next year because of the long approval process for drugs.

The vaccine is already approved for men in Europe and Australia, according to Time magazine. On its Web site, the CDC reported that the best way to prevent the risk of contracting HPV is to avoid sexual contact. For those who choose to be sexually active, the CDC said to limit the number of sexual partners and to stay in long-term, monogamous relationships as much as possible.

Sophomore nursing major Santiago Mercado said he agreed that sexual abstinence was the best way to prevent the spread of HPV, but that any sexual activity needs to be done using protection.

The study also said there was a chance of a better prognosis for HPV-related cancers over two years than non-related cases, possibly due to a better response to radiation treatment.

Joshua Jemente, junior political science major and president of Kappa Sigma fraternity, said it is the responsibility of every person to decide what steps they need to take to avoid the spread of the virus.

“Ultimately, the decision is left up to them,” Jemente said.