HPV vaccination helps prevent the infection that can cause 6 types of cancer. Learn more about HPV cancer prevention.
HPV is short for human papillomavirus. HPVs are a large group of related viruses.
Infection with HPV is very common. It is estimated that more than 4 out of 5 people will get HPV at some point in their lives. Most HPV infections go away on their own without any health problems, but some persist and can cause 6 types of cancer including cervical, throat, vulvar, vaginal, penile and anal cancers. There is no way to know if an HPV infection will lead to cancer.
More than 270 million doses have been distributed around the world since 2006 and safety studies continue to show that HPV vaccination is very safe. The safety of vaccines, including the HPV vaccine, is continually watched by organizations in the US and around the world. All vaccines can have potential side effects, but reactions caused by the HPV vaccine have been mostly mild and like those of other vaccines.
The HPV vaccine is best when the two-shot series is completed before age 13 to achieve the most complete protection against HPV cancers. In fact, HPV cancer prevention decreases the longer you wait to vaccinate. That’s why doctors recommend that boys and girls get the HPV vaccine between the ages of 9 to 12. If 80% of 11-and 12-year-olds were vaccinated, an estimated 90% of HPV cancers could be prevented and 31,000 fewer people would hear the words “You have cancer” every year.
Both males and females can get HPV. HPV vaccination is strongly recommended for boys and girls, but HPV vaccine rates for boys in Mississippi lag behind girls. Getting the HPV vaccine helps protect boys from getting infected with the most common types of HPV that can cause cancer of the throat, penis, and anus.
Cervical cancer is the most common cancer linked to HPV in women. Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by HPV. Cervical cancer can be found early and even prevented with routine screening tests. The Pap test looks for changes caused by HPV infection in cervical cells. The HPV test looks for the infection itself. Cervical cancer is preventable with vaccines and regular screening tests. More than half of the women in the United States who get cervical cancer have never had or rarely had a Pap test.
HPV can also cause cancer of the vulva, which is the outer part of the female genital organs. This cancer is much less common than cervical cancer. There’s no standard screening test for this cancer other than routine physical exams.
Most vaginal cancers contain HPV. Many vaginal precancers also contain HPV, and these changes may be present for years before turning into cancer. These precancers can sometimes be found with the same Pap test that’s used to test for cervical cancer and precancer. If a precancer is found, it can be treated, stopping cancer before it really starts.
In men, HPV can cause cancer of the penis. It’s more common in men with HIV and those who have sex with other men. There’s no standard screening test to find early signs of penile cancer. Because almost all penile cancers start under the foreskin of the penis, they may be noticed early in the course of the disease.
HPV can cause cancer of the anus in both men and women. It’s more common in people with HIV and in men who have sex with other men. Screening tests for anal cancer are not routinely recommended for all people. Still, some experts recommend anal cytology testing (also called an anal Pap test because it’s much like the Pap test used for cervical cancer) for people at higher risk of anal cancer. This includes men who have sex with men, women who have had cervical cancer or vulvar cancer, anyone who is HIV-positive, and anyone who has had an organ transplant.
HPV is found in some mouth and throat cancers in men and women. Most cancers found in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils, are HPV-related. These are the most common HPV-related cancers in men. There’s no standard screening test to find these cancers early. Still, many can be found early during routine exams by a dentist, doctor, dental hygienist or by self-exam.
HPV vaccination can prevent more than 90% of HPV-related cancers. But you don’t have to take our word for it: we’ve collected a library of resources. Stay informed, spread the word and help us raise the vaccination rate in Mississippi.