Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a group of more than 150 related viruses, forty of which that can infect the genital areas of male and female humans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the very common virus currently infects nearly 80 million individuals, or one in four, in the United States. The virus is transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact including vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an infected partner even when the infected person has no signs or symptoms. The most common sexually transmitted infection (STI), HPV most commonly spreads through vaginal and anal sex. The virus infects about 14 million individuals including teenagers each year. Anyone sexually active is at risk for HPV infection.
Although most HPV infections clear up without treatment, some HPV infections persist and can cause changes in the cells in the infected area, which can cause genital warts or cancer. Different types of HPV cause cancer and genital warts. HPV can cause cancers of the vulva, vagina, cervix, penis, anus, and back of the throat including the base of the tongue and tonsils (oropharynx). HPV-related cancers affect over 27,000 women and men each year, or a new case every 20 minutes. Cervical cancer is the most common HPV cancer, and almost all cervical cancer is cause by HPV. Of the other cancers related to the virus, 69 percent of vulvar cancers, 75 percent of vaginal cancers, 63 percent of penile cancers, 91 percent of anal cancers, and 72 percent of oral cancers are linked to HPV. Cancer often takes years, even decades, to develop after infection with HPV.
The HPV Vaccine
HPV infection is preventable with the HPV vaccine. The CDC currently recommends vaccination against HPV for preteen boys and girls at age 11 or 12. HPV vaccine produces a more robust immune response during the preteen years and provides protection against the virus before exposure. Young women can receive the HPV vaccine through age 26 and young men through age 21. Men who have sex with men and men with compromised immune systems (including HIV) should also receive the HPV vaccine through age 26.
Three FDA-approved vaccines that protect against HPV currently exist: Cervarix, Gardasil, Gardasil-9. Cervarix is a bivalent vaccine, protecting against two types of HPV. Gardasil is a quadrivalent vaccine, protecting against four types of HPV. The most recent HPV vaccine, Gardasil-9, protects against nine strains of HPV. The CDC recommends that the HPV vaccine be given as a series of three shots over six months with the second and third doses given at one to two months and six months after the first dose.
HPV Vaccine Complications
As with all vaccines, minor reactions to the HPV vaccine include pain (9 in 10) and redness (1 in 3) at the injection site, headache, mild (1 in 10) or moderate (1 in 65) fever, and headache (1 in 3). The minor side effects of the vaccine generally do not require medical attention. Any medication including vaccines can cause a severe allergic reaction, but such reactions from the HPV vaccine are very rare, estimated at fewer than one in a million doses. Many studies have concluded the HPV safe and effective in protecting against human papillomavirus. Gardasil 9 was studied in clinical trials with more than 15,000 females and males; Gardasil was studied in clinical trials with more than 29,000 females and males, and Cervarix was studied in trials with more than 30,000 females. The benefits of HPV vaccination far outweigh any potential risk of side effects.
HPV Vaccines: Vaccinating Your Preteen or Teen: http://www.cdc.gov/hpv/parents/vaccine.html
HPV Vaccine Safety: http://www.cdc.gov/hpv/parents/vaccinesafety.html
HPV (Human Papillomavirus) Gardasil®-9 VIS: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/hpv-gardasil-9.html
Human Papillomavirus (HPV): http://www.cdc.gov/hpv/
The Link Between HPV and Cancer: http://www.cdc.gov/hpv/parents/cancer.html
What Is HPV: http://www.cdc.gov/hpv/parents/whatishpv.html
Gardasil HPV Vaccine: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gardasil_vaccine_and_box.jpg
3 Things Parents Need to Know About Preventing Cancers Infographic: http://www.cdc.gov/hpv/infographics/3-things-parents.html
HPV Cancer Prevention Infographic: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/who/teens/infographic/hpv-cancer-prevention.html