In the headlines this week: A new, reputable medical study finds that one in four U.S. men have cancer-linked human papillomavirus (HPV) genital infections.

The new study was published January 19 in the medical journal JAMA Oncology – and is the first published estimate for genital HPV infections in men.

HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer, in women and is detected during routine Pap tests. HPV-related mouth and throat cancers are becoming more common, especially among men, who are not routinely screened for the virus. It is estimated that more than 9,000 cases of HPV-related cancers occur in men annually.

The HPV vaccine can prevent infections -- but experts say vaccination rates in pre-teens and young adults are far too low, especially among males. High-risk HPV poses cancer risks to people who are infected and to their sexual partners.

One news article about the study quoted Dr. Tanguy Seiwert, a head and neck cancer specialist at the University of Chicago, as saying: “Our society keeps talking about finding 'the cure for cancer.' Frankly, this is as close as it gets — it prevents cancer."

“Now more than ever it is vital that boys as well as girls get vaccinated for HPV,” agreed Dr. Kristen Royer, MD, a family medicine specialist at Boulder Community Health.

Dr. Royer says the study results prove that parents and doctors must increase efforts to vaccinate boys and young men against HPV.

BCH follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guideline that boys and girls ages 11-12 get vaccinated for HPV. Children as young as nine-years-old can be vaccinated for HPV.

Dr. Royer has helped improve adolescent vaccination rates for Boulder Community Health patients by participating in a national research study sponsored by the American Academy of Family Physicians and the CDC. Dr. Royer continues to monitor adolescent BCH patients to help our community maintain and improve our gains in adolescent immunization rates.

Parents of preteen boys and girls should schedule an appointment for an HPV vaccination with their primary care provider by calling 303-415-4015.