Michigan Medicine's Michelle M. Chen, M.D., is available to discuss the rising incidence of head and neck cancer caused by HPV and the related need for boys and young adult men to get the HPV vaccine.

Chen recently co-authored a paper in JAMA that highlights the low rate of HPV vaccination for young adult men: Just 16% of men ages 18 to 21 had received at least one dose of the HPV vaccine at any age. Those who had been vaccinated after turning 18 were also less likely than women to complete the full, three-dose series.

Because HPV can cause cervical cancer, girls and women are more likely to hear about the vaccine from their pediatricians or OBGYNs. Yet oropharyngeal cancer, which occurs in the throat, tonsils, and back of the tongue, has now surpassed cervical cancer as the leading cancer caused by HPV — and 80% of those diagnosed with it are men.

“I don’t think that a lot of people, both providers and patients, are aware that this vaccine is actually a cancer-prevention vaccine for men as well as women,” Chen says. “But HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer can impact anyone — and there’s no good screening for it, which makes vaccination even more important.”

Chen is a clinical lecturer in the Michigan Medicine Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and a head and neck surgeon.

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