Cervical cancer just may just be "sexier" than throat cancer, said Dr. Ranit Mishori, a family physician in the Georgetown University School of Medicine.
"We don't think about oral cancer except in smokers," she said. "There is no question HPV is the cause of most oral cancers, but it's partly an awareness issue relating to our kids' sex life, and who wants to talk about oral sex?"
Convincing parents to vaccinate their sons as well as their daughters is a "hard sell," said Mishori.
"Oftentimes it's the moms who take the kids to the doctor, and we tell them we have this great vaccine that can prevent their daughter from getting cervical cancer," she said. "Moms can easily relate."
But it's harder to tell her "to give her son three painful shots so that he won't transmit it to his girlfriend in the future and might not transmit cancer or have oral cancer himself," said Mishori.
As for potential side effects with the vaccine, Mishori said those concerns are "pretty minor compared to the potential."
"It hasn't been around too long, but it's been tested on thousands of women," she said. "The fact that the vaccine prevents cancer is astounding in itself."