We’ve been writing about sex and sexual health for more than a decade, and HPV still makes our heads swim. It’s such a complicated subject — complicated further by the emotional and political climate surrounding the vaccine — and guidelines on HPV seem to be constantly changing. It’s been in the news a lot lately, so we thought we’d review some of the latest headlines.¬†If you want to brush up on the facts, check out the CDC’s HPV page here.¬†And you can review everything we’ve published on HPV here.
- A new study published in the British Medical Journal shows that the HPV vaccine — which previously had been thought to have a purely preventative effect – reduces the risk of a new HPV-associated illness in patients who have already been treated for a disease that resulted from HPV infection.
- A Nobel Laureate makes a case for vaccinating young males against HPV to help prevent cervical cancer in women.
- New cervical cancer screening guidelines include fewer pap smears for women over 21; HPV tests combined with fewer pap smears for women over 30; and no screening at all for young women under 21. (This is because young women’s bodies are more likely to clear HPV with no intervention, and the screening process can affect future fertility.)
- Research shows that while anal HPV infection and precancerous lesions are common among gay and bisexual men, most of these cases will not progress to anal cancer. (And the progression from lesions to cancer seems to be even slower than the already slow progression rate of cervical cancer.) A less cheery way of looking at this story is that men who have sex with men are at an increased risk of anal HPV and anal cancer.
- Is oral sex really responsible for a rise in head and neck cancer rates? And if so, can the HPV vaccine help?¬†The jury is still out on both counts.