About 1 percent of sexually active men in the United States have genital warts at any particular time, according to the CDC. Annually, about 800 U.S. men contract HPV-related penile cancer and about 1,100 men get HPV-related anal cancer.
Because the virus spreads through skin contact, normal protections that prevent the spread of disease through body fluids won't work, Bonhomme said.
"Diseases like herpes and HPV cannot be completely prevented by condoms because they are both spread by contact with skin," Bonhomme said. "If the virus comes into contact with the scrotum or thighs, you can still be infected."
To make matters worse, men do not have the screening tools for HPV-related cancers that are available to women. A Pap test can detect cervical cancer in women, Bonhomme said, but there's no comparable test for penile or anal cancer in men. As a result, many men don't realize they have these cancers until they begin showing late-stage symptoms.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the HPV vaccine Gardasil for use in women in 2006. Three years later, the FDA approved a second HPV vaccine, Cervarix. Vaccination currently is recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls and for young women ages 13 through 26 who have not yet been vaccinated.
"The idea is to vaccinate before they become sexually active," Saslow said. "Afterward, it's much less effective."
The debate now among public health officials is whether that recommendation should extend to boys and young men. A working group of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices reported in June that most of its members believe that males should be vaccinated for HPV and that the guidelines for males ought to be harmonized to match existing recommendations for females, according to slides from the meeting.
When it meets again next month, Skinner said, the committee will again take up the issu
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