‘Most people’ unaware of equal HPV risk to men and women

Up to 100 women and 30 men die each year from cancers caused by HPV in Ireland

Current uptake of the HPV vaccine is about 62 per cent nationally in the schools programme. Photograph:  Joe Raedle/ Getty Images

Current uptake of the HPV vaccine is about 62 per cent nationally in the schools programme. Photograph: Joe Raedle/ Getty Images

 

Almost two-thirds of people do not realise that males and females are at equal risk of HPV (human papillomavirus) infection, according to new research.

The HPV infection can cause cancers in both men and women, including anal cancer and cervical cancer. Each year in Ireland, up to 100 women and 30 men die from cancers caused by HPV.

At present, a vaccine is offered to all teenage girls in the first year of secondary school. The Government has pledged to extend the vaccination scheme to boys from next year.

Research commissioned by the vaccine manufacturer MSD Ireland, and carried out by Behaviour and Attitudes on a sample population of 1,000 adults in Ireland, indicates that many are not aware of the risks.

Almost nine out of 10 men in Ireland do not realise that they are likely to get HPV infection at some stage in their lives, it found.

In fact, medical professionals say HPV is a common virus that almost all sexually active men and women will get at some point in their lifetime.

There are more than 100 different types of HPV and the majority of HPV infections are harmless.

However, some HPV infections can cause HPV-related cancers, like cervical cancer and anal cancer.

Latest figures show that in Ireland, HPV infection caused up to 420 cancer cases in men and women each year between 2010 and 2014.

Worrying

Prof Ray O’Sullivan, consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology at St Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny, said: “It is worrying to see such low levels of HPV awareness especially when it is possible to prevent certain types of HPV infection that could cause certain cancers.

“HPV infection is most common in people in their late teens and early 20s and we know that HPV infection rates are rising rapidly among women and men in high-income countries like Ireland.”

Current uptake of the HPV vaccine is about 62 per cent nationally in the schools programme.