Only two doses now needed for most youth, instead of three
By Katy Henke
HPV, or human papillomavirus, is an increasingly popular health topic these days. Not only are there news stories about HPV and the HPV vaccine just about every week, but there's a push across nearly all levels of healthcare -- from federal agencies to local healthcare providers -- to encourage parents to vaccinate their children against the cancer-causing virus. And for good reason. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that almost all adults in the United States will have an HPV infection at some point in their lives.
Most of these infections will clear on their own, but some can persist. And the CDC reports that over 90% of cervical cancer and anal cancer cases are caused by HPV, as are 60% of penile cancers and 70% of head and neck cancers. It is a much broader list than many people may understand (see table).
But it's not all doom and gloom. In fact, the fight against HPV-related cancers is one of the bright spots in cancer prevention, with huge potential for benefit. Since 2011, both girls and boys have been able to receive the HPV vaccine, which protects against HPV and reduces the risk of developing future cancers. What used to be a three-dose vaccine is now an easier two-dose vaccine.
Boys and girls ages 11-12 should receive the two doses six months apart to be most effective. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease, and often times doesn’t have any symptoms, so it’s important to take preventative measures before your child becomes sexual active.
Older teenagers and young adults (up to 26 years of age) can also benefit from the HPV vaccine. Specific recommendations can vary based on age, gender, and other factors. So, it's important to see a healthcare provider for details.
The HPV vaccine is a safe and great way to prevent cancer later in life. And most insurance plans cover it. For more information, visit the CDC’s HPV website.
HPV vaccination is a simple step to help protect our future generations.