HPV, also known as human papillomavirus, is a sexually transmitted disease. It is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. Most sexually active men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives. There are about 79 million Americans infected with HPV, and about 14 million people become newly infected each year. It causes almost every type of cervical cancer and five percent of all cancers.
More than 12,000 U.S. women are get cervical cancer each year, and about 4,000 women die from the disease each year. Fortunately, the number of cervical cancer cases has gone down over the past few decades because of women getting regular pap tests. Having regular pap tests can detect precancerous growths that can cause cervical cancer.
New research shows that a new HPV vaccine can prevent more than 80 percent of cervical cancers. The new vaccine is called Gardasil-9. This vaccine is a newer version of a previous HPV vaccine (Gardasil) that has been on the market for years. The new vaccine was approved by the FDA in December 2014.
The new vaccine is a 9-valent human papillomavirus vaccine which protects women from seven types of cancer-causing HPV, including strains 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58. These strains of HPV are known to cause certain cancers such as cervical, vulvar, vaginal, and anal cancer.
The previous HPV vaccine, Gardasil, only protects against two strains of HPV, 16 and 18. These strains are known to cause about two-thirds of cervical cancers in the United States. The new Gardasil-9 vaccine also protects against five additional strains of HPV. These additional strains of HPV are known to cause about 15 percent of cervical cancers in the U.S.
Gardasil-9 is different than Gardasil because the new vaccine is for both girls and boys. Gardasil was originally just for girls. This is important because anal, penile, and oral cancers are linked to HPV. Now that boys can be vaccinated, this can reduce the risk of a boys infecting girls with HPV.
It is recommended that children get the HPV vaccine around 11 or 12 years old. The vaccine is available past that age, however, it may not be as effective after a person has already been infected with HPV. Clinical trials are currently being done to find a vaccine for women who already have some form of HPV. For now, the best way to prevent HPV or any of the associated cancers is to get regular pap smears, practice safe sex, and get your child vaccinated.