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5 Things You Might Not Know About Human Papillomavirus

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Portrait Of Grandmother With Daughter And Granddaughter

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus that infects both women and men. Although most HPV infections go away on their own, infections that don’t go away (persist) can cause changes in the cells and lead to cancer. With HPV vaccine, we have a powerful tool to prevent most of these cancers from ever developing.

While cervical cancer is the most common and well-known HPV cancer, it’s not the only type of cancer HPV infections can cause. January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and in honor of that, here are five things you might not know about HPV.

HPV infections cause cancers other than cervical cancer.HPV facts

HPV infections can cause

  • cancers of the cervix, vagina, and vulva in women;
  • cancer of the penis in men;
  • and cancers of the anus and back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (oropharynx) in men and women.

Every year in the United States, 27,000 women and men are diagnosed with a cancer caused by HPV infection—that’s a new case of cancer every 20 minutes.

HPV vaccination age is recommended at ages 11 or 12.

HPV vaccination is recommended for preteen girls and boys (ages 11-12) to protect against cancer-causing HPV infections before they are exposed to the virus. HPV vaccination provides the best protection when given at the recommended ages of 11-12.

Mom and Kid and NurseScreening isn’t an alternative to HPV vaccination.

Every year, 4,000 women in the U.S. die from cervical cancer—even with routine screening and treatment. There is no routine screening test for the other cancers HPV causes. Many of those HPV cancers are not discovered until they are late stage or invasive and can be very painful, disfiguring, and even deadly.

That’s why it’s so important for girls and boys to get the full HPV vaccine series. HPV vaccines are given as a series of three shots over six months. Women who have had the HPV vaccine should still start getting screened for cervical cancer when they reach age 21.

HPV vaccination also prevents invasive testing and treatment for “precancers.”

Every year in the U.S., more than 300,000 women endure invasive testing and treatment for changes in the cells (lesions) on the cervix that can develop into cancers. Testing and treatment for these “precancers” can cause lasting problems such as cervical instability which can lead to preterm labor and preterm birth. HPV vaccination protects against the types of HPV that cause the majority of the cervical cancers and precancers.

HPV vaccination is protecting children from HPV disease.

In the four years after the vaccine was recommended in 2006, the amount of HPV infections among teen girls in the U.S. dropped by more than half. Also, fewer young women are being diagnosed with cervical precancer caused by HPV infections. HPV vaccination is critical to protecting the next generation against cancers caused by HPV infections.

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11 comments on “5 Things You Might Not Know About Human Papillomavirus”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    I had hvp in my early twenties,, and 6 years ago diagnosed with head and neck cancer .Site originated in my right tonsil ,(or where my tonsils were , prior to my tonsillectomy at age 5) .. Can the vaccine possibly prevent future occurrences ,, such as the Shingle prophylactics does ??

    My daughter had several issues after the vaccinations. This cause us concerns about the vaccination. She first began testing position for HVP and after biopsies that proved negative. She was required to obtain several of these test all proving negative. The cost was very high needlessly. Then after all that she began testing negative but developed ITTP a severe form. After four years she still fights ITTP and fighting to stay out of the hospital. The strange issue here also is the fact that she is a virgin. You must understand why we are concerned to have other family members receive this vaccine. she has been told she should never have a baby her life would be too high a risk.

    Thank you for all the objective education and support to increase HPV vaccination in both girls and boys.

    Hello, Michael! Currently available HPV vaccines have been studied in clinical trials and have been found to prevent infection with vaccine type HPV if given before exposure. They have not been found to clear existing HPV infections or treat HPV-associated disease. HPV is a different type of virus than the shingles virus. While some small studies have looked at whether vaccination after treatment of cervical disease cancer can prevent recurrences, HPV vaccines have not been studied to see if they can prevent recurrent disease in randomized trials. CDC makes recommendations for the public’s health but is not in a position to provide individual medical advice. You can talk to your healthcare professional to figure out what’s best for you.

    I had cervical cancer when I was 29 years old. I had #2 conization surgeries & the second one was successful & removed all the cancer. The cancer was found at my annual pap smear & I was told that I had approximately #1 year to live if the cancer wasn’t found/removed when it was. Although it is many years later, should I get the vaccine?
    I had my tonsils removed at age 15, but I’ve been having problems with a sore throat lately; bc my tonsils grew back.
    Please advise me,-
    Sincerely, Kandi Edwards

    Hi Kandi,
    CDC makes recommendations for the public’s health but is not in a position to provide individual medical advice. You should talk to your doctor to figure out what’s best for you.

    Some people have touted HPV vaccine as an “anti-cancer” drug. Does the CDC agree with this characterization of the vaccine?
    Personally, I think it is dangerous because the HPV vaccine is meant to prevent HPV and not cancer which is a separate issue despite the fact that HPV is associated with some cancers.

    Hi Aadil! HPV vaccination is the best way to prevent many types of related cancers. Every year, nearly 27,000 women and men in the U.S. are diagnosed with a cancer caused by HPV. HPV vaccination prevents infection of the most common cancer-causing HPV types and has the potential to prevent up to three out of four HPV-associated cancers.

    I found out 5 years ago that I had hpv. I just recently had a pap to check and see if it’s gone. The doctor told me to call him in two weeks to see had I went away. I would like to know, would it be okay to have sex with a condom?

    HPV infections are very common in women and men. Most sexually active people get infected with some type of HPV at some point in their lives, although most never know it. HPV vaccination is the best way to protect against HPV infections. However, 90 percent of HPV infections clear within 2 years. Condoms used consistently and correctly can lower the chances of getting and spreading HPV and developing HPV-related diseases (e.g., genital warts and cervical cancer). However, because HPV can infect areas not covered by a condom, condoms might not fully protect against HPV. It’s important to note that CDC makes recommendations for the public’s health but is not in a position to provide individual medical advice. You can talk to your healthcare professional to figure out what’s best for you

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