Gardasil Approved to Prevent Anal Cancer
Article date: December 22, 2010
By Rebecca V. Snowden
The vaccine, made by Merck, targets HPV types 16 and 18, which are linked to cancer, as well as types 6 and 11, strains that cause genital warts. It is already used to help prevent cervical, vulvar, and vaginal cancers linked to HPV. The vaccine can be given to people between the ages of 9 and 26.
“Treatment for anal cancer is challenging; the use of Gardasil as a method of prevention is important as it may result in fewer diagnoses and the subsequent surgery, radiation or chemotherapy that individuals need to endure,” said Karen Midthun, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.
Though the exact relationship is unclear, most anal cancers appear to be linked to infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV is a group of more than 100 related viruses that can spread during skin-to-skin contact – including vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse, and even during oral sex.
The approval is based on findings from a randomized trial that showed Gardasil was 78% effective in preventing anal cancer linked to HPV 16 and 18 in men who were at high risk of the disease.
Gardasil is administered 3 times over the course of 6 months. It cannot protect against HPV infections already present at the time of vaccination, so people need to get it before they become sexually active.
To reduce the risk of HPV infection, doctors encourage individuals to postpone sex, limit the number of sexual partners, practice safer sex (condoms afford some – but not total – protection against infection), and depending on their age group, to get vaccinated.
To learn more about HPV, see Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), Cancer, and HPV Vaccines – Frequently Asked Questions.
Reviewed by Members of the ACS Medical Content Staff
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