Men don't 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 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," said Debbie Saslow, director of breast and gynecologic cancer programs for the American Cancer Society. "Afterward, it's much less effective."
Saslow and Bonhomme, who is also president of the National Black Men's Health Network, said that beyond the direct health risks, there are other compelling reasons to extend HPV vaccinations to males.
For one thing, it would be simpler to vaccinate everyone than to have separate guidelines for boys and girls, Saslow said. There's also an argument for gender equity, in that only women are being vaccinated for a disease that affects both sexes, she added.
Another strong argument in favor of male HPV vaccination, Bonhomme said, is that by only immunizing half the population, health officials are not attacking the problem with full force.
"Where are women getting the virus from?" he asked. "If you don't vaccinate the guys, then you aren't helping the women."
HPV has been shown to increase a man's chances of contracting penile and anal cancer, particularly for gay males. Men who have sex with men are about 17 times more likely to develop anal cancer than straight men, according to the CDC.
About 1 percent of sexually active men in the Unit
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