Mama's Boys and the HPV Vaccine

HPV4 vaccinations higher in boys whose mothers accessed preventive care

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) A vaccine is available to help reduce the risk of girls getting cancer later in life. This same vaccine is also available for boys. New research suggests a boy’s mother plays a significant role in whether or not he gets the vaccine. A recent study found that mothers’ preventive health behaviors have a lot to do with whether or not their sons get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

The researchers found that the sons of women who recently had flu shots or a cervical cancer screening were more likely to get vaccinated for HPV than boys whose mothers did not take these preventive steps.

This study also showed that a mother's history of sexually transmitted infections played a role in her son's HPV vaccination.

For boys, the HPV vaccine is designed to help prevent anal cancers. For girls, the vaccine helps to prevent cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancer. The vaccine also protects against genital warts in both sexes.

"Talk to your child’s doctor about the HPV vaccine."

This study was conducted by Kaiser Permanente researchers, and Rulin Hechter, MD, PhD, was the lead study lead author.

HPV vaccines protect against HPV 6, 11, 16 and 18, which are linked to genital warts and various types of cancer.

For this study, more than 250,000 electronic medical records of boys between the ages of 9 and 17 were reviewed to learn how many had started the quadrivalent HPV vaccine (HPV4) between October 2009 and December 2010.

The aim of this study was to see if mothers’ use of preventive services and history of sexually transmitted infections impacted the use of the HPV vaccine among their sons.

Previous research has indicated that parental understanding of HPV and attitudes toward vaccination influence use of the vaccine among children and adolescents.

This study found that a total of 4,055 boys, or 1.6 percent of the group, had started the vaccine, which is given in three doses.

The researchers uncovered that mothers played a role in which boys started the shots.

Boys of mothers who had received a flu shot within the last year were 16 percent more likely to have had the vaccine than boys of mothers who didn’t get a flu shot.

The sons of women who had Pap smears (cervical cancer screening) had 13 percent higher vaccination rates than boys whose mothers hadn’t gotten a Pap smear.

According to the researchers, mothers who had a history of genital warts were 47 percent more likely to have their sons vaccinated.

HPV4 vaccination was higher among boys of Hispanic origin and those who lived in neighborhoods that had lower income and educational levels and were enrolled in a Medicaid program, compared to boys of other cultures who lived in different socioeconomic neighborhoods and who had private health insurance.

Recommendations about the HPV vaccine have changed over the years. In 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) issued what it calls a "permissive use recommendation" for boys between the ages of 9 and 26 to receive the HPV4 to prevent genital warts.

A permissive use recommendation means that it’s not a formal recommendation and is up to the physician to suggest.

Then in 2010, the ACIP issued a "routine use recommendation" for boys 11 and 12 years old for the prevention of HPV-related anal cancer.

"Maternal utilization of preventive care and history of genital warts may influence HPV4 uptake among adolescent boys," the authors concluded.

"The important role of maternal health characteristics and health behaviors needs be considered in intervention efforts to increase vaccine uptake among boys," they wrote.

Two HPV vaccines are currently available — Gardasil, which costs about $150 per dose, and Cervarix, which costs roughly $135 per dose. The vaccines are given in three doses.

Findings from this study were published July 18 in the American Journal of Public Health.

The research was funded by the Department of Research and Evaluation, Kaiser Permanente Southern California. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
July 18, 2013
Last Updated:
July 31, 2013