So I was just hearing about this a few days ago and its one of those things I find epidemiologically fascinating.
We (should) all know that HPV is responsible for other types of cancer than just cervical; but until now it has been a relatively minor contributor. So the vaccines have been approved for use in males for the prevention of penile and anal cancers, but have not yet gained recommended status that they have for females. That all may be about to change.
See, we have an oral cancer problem. Now we have also have a smoking and drinking problem, and these are both known carcinogens. So up till now we have generally tied the two together. Only, the incidence of smoking is going down, and the incidence of oral cancer is not dropping with it. Actually it's increasing
. So scientists got on that. It turns out that while oral cancer from smoking has been dropping, oral cancer caused by HPV has been rising dramatically.
For example, HPV prevalence by Inno-LiPA increased from 16.3% during 1984 to 1989 to 71.7% during 2000 to 2004.
Population-level incidence of HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers increased by 225% (95% CI, 208% to 242%) from 1988 to 2004 (from 0.8 per 100,000 to 2.6 per 100,000), and incidence for HPV-negative cancers declined by 50% (95% CI, 47% to 53%; from 2.0 per 100,000 to 1.0 per 100,000)
If recent incidence trends continue, the annual number of HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers is expected to surpass the annual number of cervical cancers by the year 2020.
Now, the next step is to run the numbers and make sure that the current vaccines provide protection from the subtype causing these oral cancers (although the prediction is that they should since the culprit is HPV 16 which the vaccines target). Let's cross our fingers, it would be really nice to have a ready to distribute method for combating this emerging trend.
CDC Vaccine Info: http://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/STDFact-HPV-vaccine-hcp.htm