Infectious disease: HPV vaccine appears to be cost-effective way to prevent anal cancer in young males

Jane Kim, assistant professor of health decision science at HSPH, is the author of a study in The Lancet Infectious Diseases on the cost-effectiveness of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in young men and teen boys. Kim was interviewed by about her study. Using statistical decision-analytic models, she reports that, based on available data, the HPV vaccine appears to be a cost-effective way to prevent genital warts and anal cancer in boys and young men, ages 12 to 26, who have sex with other men (MSM).  Kim assessed the cost-effectiveness of HPV vaccination against several types of HPV, including those associated with 80% of anal cancer cases.

The American Cancer Society reports about 5,260 new cases of anal cancer are diagnosed annually in the U.S, and nearly 720 people die from it each year.  HPV is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that may cause genital warts or other lesions–but sometimes has no symptoms–and can be transmitted through vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Men who have sex with men, especially if they are HIV-positive, have the highest anal cancer rates in the U.S. There currently are no routine prevention or screening programs for anal cancer.

Two HPV vaccines are licensed by the Food and Drug Administration and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a routine childhood vaccine for girls and young women, who also get HPV. One of the vaccines (Gardasil) is licensed for males age 9 through 26. Current guidelines prioritize HPV vaccination of pre-adolescent girls, which has been shown to be cost-effective in previous studies, but the value of vaccinating boys in the U.S. has been unclear.

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Department of Health Policy and Management