LED Medical Diagnostics Inc. (“LED Medical”, “the Company”), a developer of tissue visualization detection technologies for the medical industry, today voiced its support for vaccinating boys against the human papillomavirus, or HPV. The manufacturer of the VELscope Vx® Enhanced Oral Assessment System is believed to be the first manufacturer of adjunctive oral cancer detection devices to publicly support HPV vaccinations.
One type of HPV—the HPV-16 strain—is the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancer, the fastest-growing type of head and neck cancer. HPV is also the leading cause of cervical cancer, and it can cause vaginal, penile and vulvar cancer as well as genital warts. While vaccinating girls against HPV has been advocated by medical experts and various government organizations for years, it is only recently that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that it is also recommending vaccinations for boys. In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics made a similar announcement, while the Oral Cancer Foundation has been advocating HPV vaccinations in boys for several years.
Most supporters recommend HPV vaccinations for preteen girls and boys at age 11 or 12 years. If a teenager or young adult (age 13 through 26 years old) has not gotten any or all of the HPV shots when they were younger, they should ask their doctor about getting them now. Preteens and teens should get all three doses of an HPV vaccine long before their first sexual contact, so they have time to develop protection from the vaccine. This is also the age when the vaccine will work the best since preteens have a better immune response from the vaccine than older teens.
“Some people mistakenly interpret support for HPV vaccinations among boys and girls as an endorsement of pre-teenage and teenage sexual activity, but that is certainly not our intent,” said Peter Whitehead, founder and CEO of LED Medical Diagnostics. “The reason we are joining leading medical experts in supporting vaccinations in preteen years is simply because this will maximize the long-term impact of the vaccine.”
Unfortunately, a recent study in Pediatrics found that an increasing percentage of parents are refusing to have their girls vaccinated against HPV. In 2010, 44 percent of parents surveyed said they would not vaccinate their girls against HPV, compared to 40 percent in 2005. According to Anne Schuchat, MD, Director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, this trend is disappointing, but there is hope that vaccinating boys will protect young women as well as young men. “HPV vaccination for males offers an opportunity to decrease the burden of HPV-related disease in both males and females,” Dr. Schuchat said.
About 20 million Americans currently have an HPV infection. According to the CDC, an estimated 7,080 men and 14,720 women develop cancers associated with HPV types 16 and 18 every year. An estimated 80% of anal cancers, 65% of vaginal cancers, 60% of oropharyngeal cancers, 50% of vulvar cancers, 35% of penile cancers and nearly all cervical cancers are HPV-related. HPV-related disease costs an estimated $8 billion annually.
“Our mission at LED Medical Diagnostics is to do whatever we can to reduce the impact of oral cancer in society,” said Mr. Whitehead. “One way we can pursue this mission is to provide the most advanced technology available to help clinicians detect oral cancer that might not be apparent to the naked eye. However, an equally important course of action is to make people aware of things they can do to reduce the risk of developing oral cancer in the first place, and that includes vaccinating boys and girls against HPV.”