Human Papilomavirus (HPV)
What is Human Papillomavirus (HPV)?
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that is spread through sexual contact. Anyone who has sex or any type of intimate sexual contact can get HPV; however, most of the time HPV has no symptoms so people do not know they have it. It is the most common sexually transmitted disease, and can be passed even when an infected person has no symptoms.
HPV can have many serious consequences in both men and women including:
- Cervical cancer
- Vulvar cancer
- Vaginal cancer
- Anal cancer
- Penile cancer
- Genital warts
- Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP),
- Oropharyngeal cancer (cancer in the back of the throat including the base of the tongue and tonsils)
Very rarely, a pregnant woman with genital HPV can pass HPV to her baby during delivery.
About 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. Each year in the U.S., HPV causes approximately 17,000 cancers in women and about 9,000 cancers in men. Cervical cancer causes about 4,000 deaths in women each year in the U.S. About 1 in 100 sexually active adults in the U.S. have genital warts at any given time.
HPV (Human papillomavirus) vaccines help protect both girls and boys from HPV infection and cancer caused by HPV. For the best protection, three doses of the vaccine are needed and should be given to adolescent girls and boys beginning at 11 or 12 years of age. If possible, HPV vaccines should be given to preteens and teens BEFORE they become sexually active. However, even if they are already sexually active, women who were not previously vaccinated and are 26 years of age or younger should receive three doses of the vaccine. Men who were not previously vaccinated and are 21 years of age and younger should also receive three doses of the vaccine. Men who are 22 to 26 years of age with certain risk conditions that put them at higher risk for HPV should also be vaccinated.
The FDA has licensed three different HPV vaccines for use in the United States: 2-valent HPV vaccine (Cervarix), 4-valent HPV vaccine (Gardasil), and 9-valent HPV vaccine (Gardasil-9).
No serious safety concerns have been linked to HPV vaccination. These studies continue to show that HPV vaccines are safe. As with all vaccines, the CDC and FDA continue to monitor the safety of these vaccines very carefully.
Low HPV vaccination rates are leaving another generation of boys and girls vulnerable to devastating HPV cancers. Vaccination could prevent most of these cancers. The CDC is looking to healthcare providers to make a strong recommendation for HPV vaccination when kids are 11 and 12 years old. To assist them, the CDC created a campaign titled HPV: You are the Key to Cancer Prevention, which contains a variety of resources for healthcare providers, including tips for speaking with parents about HPV vaccination and patient handouts.