By Sarah Garcia
The human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted infection – nearly 80 million Americans are currently living with the disease, and about 14 million people get a new HPV infection every year.
Although most HPV infections go away within two years and do not cause cancer, there are some “high-risk” types that persist for many years. These types can lead to cell changes which may progress to cancer, including cervical, vaginal, vulvar, anal, penile and head and neck.
Eliminating the Risk
One out of 20 cancers is caused by HPV. There are several ways to reduce your risk of getting HPV, and ultimately, prevent cancer.
Get Screened. Virtually all cervical cancers are caused by HPV. The Pap detects abnormal, precancerous cells so they can be treated before they become cancer. The HPV test detects the presence of human papillomavirus. Unfortunately, there are currently no screening tests for other types of cancers caused by HPV.
Get Vaccinated. The HPV vaccine PREVENTS CANCER by protecting against the most common types of HPV that cause cancer. The vaccine is recommended for girls/young women ages 9-26 years old and boys/young men ages 9-21 years old. In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration expanded the age range guidelines for the HPV vaccine. People between 27 and 45 who have not previously vaccinated are now eligible.
“It is very encouraging that as a scientific and medical community, we continue to look for new ways to extend the public health benefit of the HPV vaccine to a broader segment of the population. While most adults have been exposed to HPV, it is unlikely that they were exposed to all 9 types of HPV that the vaccine protects against. Thus, there are continued opportunities for health benefit from receiving the vaccine after age 27,” said Dr. Susan Vadaparampil, associate center director of Community Outreach, Engagement & Equity.
In 2018, Moffitt Cancer Center partnered with 69 other National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers to issue a statement urging for increased HPV vaccination and screening to eliminate HPV-related cancers, starting with cervical cancer.
On and leading up to Monday, March 4, we join organizations around the world in promoting awareness and education about HPV and the cancers that can be prevented through vaccination. On the second annual International Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Awareness Day, please join the conversation. Use the hashtags #eliminateHPV and #AskAboutHPV to spread the word.