According to the Washington State Department of Health, human papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common infection. Some types produce warts in the skin and others lead to several types of cancer, especially cervical, anal and throat cancers. The good news is that most HPV-caused cancers can be prevented with a vaccine. HPV vaccines are safe and highly effective in preventing infection from certain types of HPV when given before a person is exposed to the virus, starting at age 9.
Both men and women can be infected with HPV, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is a leading cause of many types of cancers, including:
- More than 90 percent of cervical and anal cancers
- About 70 percent of vaginal and vulvar cancers
- More than 60 percent of penile cancers
Recent studies have also shown that about 70 percent of cancers of the throat may be linked to HPV.
When to get the HPV vaccination
An estimated 80 million Americans have HPV, and the CDC reports that in the United States, more than 1 in 5 adults aged 18-59 has high-risk human papillomavirus. While some cases of HPV resolve on their own without any problems, high-risk HPV is the type linked to a variety of cancers. It is recommended that adolescent girls and boys get vaccinated by the age of 13, before they become sexually active, to help break the link and dramatically reduce the risk of diseases.
According to the 2016 Community Checkup, on average, just 17 percent of adolescent boys and 22 percent of adolescent girls in Washington state received the recommended doses of HPV vaccine. The HPV vaccine is an important part of preventive care, and knowing which vaccines your child needs and when is a critical step toward protecting their health and the health of others.