10 Things to Know about the HPV Vaccine

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Back to school can mean physician checkups. Get the latest information on the HPV vaccine from 3 Kaiser Permanente physicians.

The human papillomavirus, or HPV, is common, infecting 80 million people in the United States and 14 million annually. Most people exposed to HPV never have any consequences, but HPV is the most common cause of cervical, anal, genital skin, and throat cancers in adults. To protect against HPV-related cancer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that boys and girls get the 2-dose series of HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12.

Learn more HPV facts from these compiled by Kaiser Permanente physicians Nichole Tyson, MD, a Roseville pediatric and adolescent gynecologist; Matthew Schechter, MD, an East Bay ob-gyn and clinical dysplasia leader; and Tracy Flanagan, MD, a Richmond ob-gyn and the director of Women’s Health in Northern California.

1. Sexual intercourse is not required for HPV transmission since the virus lives on all skin surfaces.

2. More than 90% of HPV infections will clear on their own. When the HPV virus is not cleared and persists for years, there is an increased risk of HPV-related medical conditions and cancers.

3. The HPV vaccine can halt transmission of the virus and prevent life-threatening cancers later in life: 33,700 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with HPV-related cancers in 2018 and 40% of those cancers occurred in men.

4. The age at which the HPV vaccination confers the greatest benefits to the patient is 11-12 years.

5. At any given time, 30-40% of Americans have one of the more than 100 HPV sub-types on their skin when tested in research studies. The HPV vaccine Gardasil 9 protects against virus sub-types (which account for 90% of the genital warts), as well as the most common sub-types associated with HPV-related cancer.

6. For youth up to 15 years of age, the vaccine is administered in 2 doses, with the second dose given 6-12 months after the first. For people aged 15-45, the FDA recommends giving the vaccine in a 3-dose series: the first dose is given, then a second dose 2 months later, and a final dose 6 months after the first dose.

7. Only 66% of U.S. teens age 13-17 have obtained the HPV vaccine. Countries with higher rates of childhood HPV vaccination rates have dramatically reduced their HPV-related cancers in both men and women.

8. Obtaining the HPV vaccine does NOT lead to young people initiating sex earlier or having sex more frequently, according to recent scientific research.

9. Smoking can triple the risk of HPV-related cancers. Smoking disrupts the ability of the body to fight HPV infection and can promote the cancer-causing effects of the virus. Quitting smoking reduces risks of HPV related cancers.

10. The HPV vaccination is recommended through age 26 and is safe in patients ages 27-45. Because of its reduced effectiveness in older patients, the FDA recommends talking with your doctor if you’re over age 26 to see if the HPV vaccine is right for you.

Discussion1 Comment

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    My 34-year-old cousin died from cervical cancer caused by HPV. Our whole family is a very strong proponent of the HPV vaccine to prevent needless deaths from cancers caused by HPV. We’re now lucky enough to have this vaccine in our and our children’s lifetime. What a gift of protection!

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