Imagine if you could protect your child against cancer. Turns out, you can – with the HPV vaccine. To highlight this, the American Cancer Society recently released a video series of HPV-related cancer survivors sharing their stories. These individuals serve as a powerful reminder of the importance of the HPV vaccine and underscore the need for all parents to talk to their children’s doctors to learn more.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus spread by close skin-to-skin contact. It is so common that nearly all sexually active adults have had at least one type of HPV at some point in their lifetime. Around 80 million people in the US currently have HPV and 14 million people are newly infected each year. While most cases of HPV clear on their own, some can cause cancer.
A recent report showed that the current number of cancers caused by HPV is rising with an estimated 30,700 each year. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer caused by HPV in women, while in men; it most commonly leads to a type of head and neck cancer. Overall, HPV is thought to cause more than 90% of anal and cervical cancers, about 70% of vaginal and vulvar cancers, and more than 60% of penile cancers.
The HPV vaccine offers the best protection against these cancers when given at the recommended age – which is 2 doses if the patient starts the vaccine series before their 15th birthday and 3 doses if they start on or after their 15th birthday. Younger adolescents have a higher immune response so it’s best to vaccinate early. Young women can get the HPV vaccine through age 26 and young men can receive it through age 21 (age 26 in some cases).