Gardasil Prevents Genital Warts in Boys

Posted on February 14th, 2011 by

In a large clinical trial among boys and young men between the ages of 16 and 26 years, vaccination with Gardasil® [Human Papillomavirus Quadrivalent (Types 6, 11, 16, and 18) Vaccine, Recombinant] substantially reduced the risk of genital warts. These results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Human papillomaviruses (HPV) consist of more than 100 different viruses. Some types of HPV cause warts, and other types of HPV have been linked with cancer. Much of the research on HPV and cancer has focused on HPV’s role in cancers of the cervix, vulva, and vagina, but HPV also contributes to cancers of the penis, anus, and oropharynx (the part of the throat that includes the tonsils, the base of the tongue, and the soft palate).

The HPV infections that cause genital cancers and genital warts are transmitted sexually. Infection is extremely common and generally occurs soon after an individual becomes sexually active. Many infections clear up on their own, but others persist.

Gardasil is a vaccine that protects against four types of HPV: types 6, 11, 16, and 18. Types 16 and 18 are linked with cancer and types 6 and 11 cause most cases of genital warts. Gardasil is approved for use in boys and girls between the ages of nine and 26 years.

In a study of the safety and efficacy of Gardasil in males, researchers enrolled more than 4000 boys and young men between the ages of 16 and 26. Study participants were randomly assigned to receive three doses of either Gardasil or a placebo injection.

The study collected information about the frequency of external genital lesions (genital warts, precancers, and cancers) in the two groups. Genital warts were the most common type of lesion identified.

These results provide additional evidence that Gardasil reduces the risk of HPV-related genital disease among males.

It’s important to keep in mind that HPV vaccines are intended to prevent infection with certain types of HPV; they do not treat existing HPV infections. As a result, the vaccines are likely to be most effective when given before an individual becomes sexually active. Furthermore, because neither of the available HPV vaccines protects against all high-risk types of HPV, they do not completely eliminate the risk of HPV-related cancer.

Reference: Giuliano AR, Palefsky JM, Goldstone S et al. Efficacy of quadrivalent HPV vaccine against HPV infection and disease in males. New England Journal of Medicine. 2011;364:401-411.

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