5 Things You Might Not Know About Human PapillomavirusPosted on by
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 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, 31,500 women and men are diagnosed with a cancer caused by HPV infection.
HPV vaccination 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.
Every year, nearly 13,000 women living in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cervical cancer, and more than 4,000 women die from cervical cancer—even with 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 vaccine is given as a series of two shots (the second dose should be given six to twelve months after the first dose) if it’s started before the 15th birthday. If the series is started after the 15th birthday then the vaccine is 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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- Page last reviewed:August 21, 2019
- Page last updated:August 21, 2019
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